With Netanyahu Grounded in Jerusalem, Trump — and Iran — Take Center Stage at UN

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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Donald Trump during the United Nations Climate Action Summit, UN Headquarters, New York, September 23, 2019.
Donald Trump during the United Nations Climate Action Summit, UN Headquarters, New York, September 23, 2019.Credit: Evan Vucci,AP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump is going before the UN General Assembly Tuesday, but unlike in previous years Trump will not meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose office announced he would not attend as planned, in the wake of last week's general election results.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 41

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Trump met with world leaders on Monday, including Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi. Trump and Sissi also met at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, last month. Their meeting followed 48 hours of rare protests in Egypt against Sissi’s regime.

>> Read more: Israel fears Trump might sit down with the Iranians — and be outmaneuvered ■The U.S. has an excuse to go to war with Iran. It just doesn't want to ■ Iranian provocation in Persian Gulf hasn’t deterred Trump yet

In a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump expressed hope that India and Pakistan, currently embroiled in tensions over the contested Kashmir region, could come together and "do something that's really smart and good for both. There's always a solution."  

After a reporter said the president is likely to be awarded the prize if he successfully mediated between Islamabad and Delhi over the disputed Himalayan territory, Trump said: "I think I would get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things if they gave it out fairly, which they don't."

The president also said he appreciated the efforts of French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been trying to get Trump back in the deal and has suggested the American president meet with Iranian President Hassan Rohani while both are in New York this week.

But at the same time, Trump declared: "We're not looking for any mediators." He said that if Iran wants to talk, "they know who to call."

Netanyahu cancelled his planned trip to New York after the results of Israel's election did not clearly cast him as the winner. Credit: AFP

Both Trump and Rohani have said no meeting is on the agenda for this week, although the U.S. leader left some wiggle room, adding, "I never rule anything out."

Two weeks ago U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Trump is willing to meet Rohani "with no preconditions." On Sunday, however, the U.S. president said he doesn’t think a meeting will take place, because “they’re not ready yet.”

Nevertheless, Trump didn’t completely rule out such a meeting. “Nothing is ever off the table completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran," he said Sunday as he left the White House.

He added that he is a “flexible person,” and said he “would like to see Iran be a great and very wealthy country, because it has tremendous capability. It has tremendous people, frankly, and tremendous potential."

The U.S. administration refrained from using military force last week in response to an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, which U.S. intelligence sources say was ordered and likely carried out by Iran. Instead, Trump chose to increase economic sanctions on Tehran.

Three days before Israel's do-over election last week, Trump wrote on Twitter that he was looking forward to meeting Netanyahu in New York and discussing the defense relationship between the two countries. However, Netanyahu canceled his trip to the UN on Wednesday, following his failure to secure a Knesset majority on September 17. 

Trump told reporters last week that he was closely following the results of the Israeli election, emphasizing that no matter what happens, "our relationship is with Israel."

Representing Israel at the UNGA is Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, who failed to secure a meeting with Pompeo during his Washington trip earlier this summer.

Trump is expected to address the General Assembly on Tuesday, his first speech focusing on U.S. foreign policy since he fired National Security Adviser John Bolton two weeks ago. Trump is also expected to hold a press conference on Wednesday before returning to Washington.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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