Biden, Netanyahu Discuss ‘Hard Issues’ in Long-Awaited New York Meeting

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US President Joe Biden meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York. (Photo: via Israeli PM TW page, file)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Here’s what they discussed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

For Netanyahu, this was a long-awaited meeting. According to the US-based news website Axios, “For nine months, Biden had declined to meet Netanyahu over concerns about his far-right government and its steps to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court.”

According to Axios, The meeting didn’t start well. Netanyahu, who arrived on time to the Intercontinental Hotel in New York, waited more than 30 minutes for Biden to show up.

Axios also reported that the two leaders “spent the hour-long meeting discussing Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul, the state of normalization talks with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the situation in the West Bank.”

Concerns about Judicial Overhaul

Associated Press (AP) reported that Biden raised concerns about the Israeli government’s controversial judicial reform and quoted the US president as saying: 

“We’re going to discuss some of the hard issues, that is upholding democratic values that lie at the heart of our partnership, including the checks and balances in our systems.”

Netanyahu reportedly played down Biden’s concerns, stating that there is “one thing that will never change and that is Israel’s commitment to democracy.”

Protests in New York as Israel’s Netanyahu Attends UN Meeting – VIDEO

According to AP, a senior US administration official said, on condition of anonymity, that “Biden pushed Netanyahu to find a compromise on his planned changes to the Israeli court system”. However, the official “did not want to characterize Netanyahu’s reaction to what Biden said”.

Israeli-Saudi Normalization

Axios quoted a US official saying that Biden and Netanyahu had “a pretty constructive discussion” about Israel’s side of the normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, in reference to the concessions Israel would make to Palestinians.

Following many leaks in US but also Israeli media of secret meetings between top Saudi and Israeli officials under US auspices, the Saudi newspaper Elaph on Sunday, September 17, reported that “Saudi Arabia has informed the US Administration to stop any discussion related to normalization with Israel”.

Prior to that report, the impression given by US-Israeli media was that negotiations over the supposedly imminent normalization evolved entirely on specific Saudi demands that had nothing to do with Palestine.

Report: Saudi Arabia Freezes Normalization Talks with Israel over Palestine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, however, in more recent reports, has said that the Palestinian issue would play a central role in any future normalization agreement with Israel.

“It’s … clear from what we hear from the Saudis that if this process is to move forward, the Palestinian piece is going to be very important,” Blinken said in an interview with the podcast ‘Pod Save the World’ on September 13.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday in Fox News, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the kingdom may consider a normalization of ties with Israel but added:

“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part.”

On Wednesday morning, ahead of the meeting between Biden and Netanyahu, twelve Likud MKs wrote an open letter to the Israeli prime minister, warning him against making any concessions to Saudi Arabia in US-brokered normalization talks.

Ahead of Netanyahu-Biden Meeting, Likud MKs Warn against Making Concessions to Saudi Arabia

West Bank Violence

AP reported that Biden “also raised concerns about the far-right Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians, urging Netanyahu to take steps to improve conditions in the West Bank at a time of heightened violence in the occupied territory.”

Shortly before the meeting, Israeli occupation forces killed six young Palestinian men in three separate incidents in the occupied West Bank and Gaza in less than 24 hours. 

Over 200 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of 2023, including 48 children. 

Last August, UN’s Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, told the UN Security Council in a special briefing that 2023 is already the deadliest year on record for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2005.

Israeli Occupation Forces Kill Six Palestinians in Less than 24 Hours

(The Palestine Chronicle)

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out