Netanyahu's bid to strengthen Israeli bilateral relations with world leaders at UN

The Israeli PM held meetings with Joe Biden, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Olaf Scholz and Volodymyr Zelensky


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 20, 2023. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Benjamin Netanyahu has held a series of meetings with world leaders at the UN General Assembly in a bid to strengthen Israeli foreign relations. 

The series of meetings on the side lines of the assembly in New York focused on bilateral ties, with most also addressing broader regional issues, including the Iranian threat and the potential normalisation with Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu's series of meetings included a long-coveted meeting with US president Joe Biden for the first time since the Israeli leader took office last year and German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The Israeli prime minister also rubbed shoulders with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine as well as a debut meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in person.

During his encounter with Zelensky on Tuesday, Netanyahu emphasised that Israel would continue to assist Ukraine on humanitarian issues.

However, due to Israel’s sensitive predicament with Russia’s role in Syria, the Israeli PM said the Jewish state would not be supplying military aid.

Zelensky is keen for Israel to do more, but said that overall he is satisfied with relations.

During his meeting with the Turkish president, Netanyahu thanked Erdogan for Turkey's help in thwarting planned attacks by an Iranian terror cell targeting Israelis in Istanbul.

The pair also exchanged reciprocal invitations to visit each other’s countries ahead of Turkey celebrating it's 100th anniversary of its Independence later this year. 

According to Middle Eastern think tank Bicom, Erdogan is understood to be keen to include a visit to Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem to mark the occasion.

The meeting marks the start of a new era in diplomatic relations between the two countries after several years of tensions. The thaw began when Erdogan reached out to Israeli president Isaac Herzog in summer 2021.

During his meeting with Scholz, Netanyahu discussed the prospect of a normalisation deal with Saudi Arabia.

The Israeli PM stressed it would not involve significant concessions to the Palestinians. He compared it to the Abraham Accords, saying, “their significance is the removal of the Palestinian veto on the peace process with the Arab states."

Instead, Netanyahu said that he was prepared to make economic and civilian goodwill gestures.

Finally, in a New York hotel room, Netanyahu held a long awaited meeting with Biden on Wednesday.

Netanyahu has been a frequent White House visitor over the years and Israeli leaders are typically invited within weeks of starting their tenure.

However, the White House decision to hold it on the side lines of the UN General Assembly rather than in Washington have been widely interpreted as signs of US displeasure with Netanyahu's new government.

Biden opened the meeting by saying the US relationship with Israel was "ironclad." However, the US president reiterated his opposition to Netanyahu's controversial judicial overhaul plan and stressed the need for him to uphold "democratic values" 

Netanyahu said he would uphold democratic values, despite his proposed changes to Israel's court system.

The pair also agreed on a US-led push to forge diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu is also due to meet with UN Secretary-General António Guterres and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. He also held a meeting with Paraguay president Santiago Peña.

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