Hours before departing for U.S., Netanyahu instructs Israeli officials not to publicly discuss Iran
Prime Minister wishes to avoid gaffes criticizing Obama or U.S. foreign policy, ahead of his meeting with the President; 'Netanyahu is going to spoil the party and he has no problem with that,' an official said.
NEW YORK - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed government ministers and official spokesmen on Saturday not to give interviews or issue public statements regarding the phone call between U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rohani, or on the Iranian issue in general.
Following Netanyahu's instructions, minsters Yuval Steinitz and Gilad Erdan, as well as Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren canceled scheduled interviews with various television stations.
Netanyahu's instructions were aimed at avoiding gaffes by ministers or official spokesmen such as criticism of Obama or U.S. foreign policy before Netanyahu meets with Obama at the White House on Monday.
Earlier on Saturday, a senior Israeli official said that White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice informed her Israeli counterpart Yaakov Amidror on Friday of the planned telephone conversation between Obama and Rohani, and then informed him of its contents after it had taken place.
"The goal of the prime minister's trip is to expose the Iranian lie at the United Nations," said a senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem. "Netanyahu fears they're heading toward a bad agreement with Iran, and if this is the situation, he prefers there be no agreement whatsoever."
The source added, "Netanyahu is going to spoil the party and he has no problem with that. He doesn't care if he's the only one saying it in public even if there are others in the world who think like him."
Netanyahu will depart from Israel Saturday night, arriving in New York early Sunday (local time). The prime minister will spend most of the day Sunday working on his speech before the United Nations General Assembly and preparing for his meeting with President Obama.
According to the schedule released by the prime minister's office, Netanyahu has only two meetings slated for Sunday – a meeting with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird and a meeting with Turkmenistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Rashid Meredov. The latter is a rather unusual meeting between an Israel prime minister and a high-ranking official from the Iran-bordering Muslim country. A few years ago, Israel opened an embassy in its capital Ashgabat.
On Monday, Netanyahu will fly to Washington, where he will meet with Obama at the White House. The bulk of the meeting will be behind closed doors, and will focus on Iran. After this meeting, a luncheon will be held for the Israeli delegation and its U.S. counterpart.
After meeting with Obama, Netanyahu will meet with Vice President Joe Biden, who is scheduled to speak at the J Street conference shortly beforehand. Netanyahu will then meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department in Washington, and before leaving for New York will take part in a parting ceremony for Ambassador Oren on Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday afternoon, Netanyahu will arrive at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to give a speech before the General Assembly. Netanyahu will be the last state representative to address the UNGA. His speech will focus on Iran's nuclear program and the peace process with the Palestinians.