Bennett to Meet With UAE, Bahrain FMs Before His First United Nations Speech

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, ahead of his slated address to the General Assembly of the United Nations the following day. 

During his visit, Bennett will also meet with the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, as well as with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and representatives of the Jewish community. Bennett is set to speak on Monday at 9 A.M. (EST) or 4 P.M. .

This is Bennett’s first speech at the UN, and he intends to use it to send a message to the international community and the domestic audience in Israel. According to the Israeli government’s coalition agreements, Bennett will address the General Assembly in September 2022, before handing over the reins to Yair Lapid.

Staff members in the Prime Minister’s Office have been working on the draft of Bennett’s speech for several days. It is already clear that it will not echo the style of his immediate predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. Bennett will not hold up maps, placards or other props to draw the attention of his audience.

In a contrast to the apocalyptic tone that often accompanied Netanyahu’s speeches, Bennett’s message is expected to be optimistic and conciliatory. Much of the address will focus on what he views as the injustice in the way Israel is judged by the world. He will criticize as discriminatory the way that Israel is treated at the UN and other international institutions. This issue is greatly troubling Bennett and his aides, particularly in light of last week’s confrontation in Congress over military aid for restocking Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.

The Prime Minister's Office is also worried about President Joe Biden’s desire to reverse the policies of his predecessor, President Donald Trump, and to restore U.S. relations with the UN and international standing.

Bennett will also discuss Iran in his address on Monday. He will focus less on threats and warnings and more on Israel’s right to defend itself by trying to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Diplomatic sources estimate that Iran’s declarations in recent days, whereby it is ready to return to the negotiating table are not empty statements and express its interest in moving forward. One source said that it’s still unclear whether Iran is willing to sign the original accord or whether it’s trying to gain time and move ahead with its nuclear plans.

In addition to talking about trying to foil Iran’s nuclear aspirations, Bennett will relate to the attempt to bring together the international community in an attempt to oppose the expansion of Iran’s influence in the Middle East and to foil any operations against Israel and the West, unrelated to the nuclear issue. Israel has recently exposed data on Iran’s operational use of drones in attacking ships and other installations in the region.

Bennett is expected to give another speech while meeting the Jewish community in New York. One mission promoted by Bennett and his designated successor as prime minister in two years, Lapid, is improving relations between Israel and the Democratic Party and its supporters.

In his speech, Bennett will present his own story as the son of immigrants from the U.S. and as someone who spent part of his adult life there, in an attempt to return to the fold Jewish community members who have moved away from supporting Israel, partly as part of disagreements with Netanyahu. He is expected to present his new government in an attempt to enhance identification of his listeners with Israel over the coming years.

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