Netanyahu Set to Meet Biden in New York Amid Strained U.S.-Israel Relations

by Lucas Garcia
U.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled for a much-anticipated meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday. This marks their first face-to-face interaction since Netanyahu assumed leadership of Israel’s far-right government in the previous year.

The protracted time taken to arrange this meeting, coupled with the choice of New York as the venue instead of Washington D.C., has been broadly perceived within Israel as an indication of American reservations about the new Israeli administration.

“The traditional invitation to the White House signifies a close and honorable relationship; its absence sends a contrary message,” stated Eytan Gilboa, a scholar in U.S.-Israeli affairs at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

He further noted, “This encounter is likely to be tense rather than cordial.”

In the lead-up to the Wednesday meeting, the White House has remained circumspect, divulging little about President Biden’s specific talking points. The Biden administration has consistently expressed apprehension about Netanyahu’s controversial proposals to reform Israel’s judiciary system. This topic is anticipated to be a focal point of the discussions.

Netanyahu argues that non-elected judges in Israel have undue influence over governmental decisions. Detractors contend that Netanyahu’s efforts to weaken the judiciary tilt the nation toward authoritarian governance.

The Israeli leader’s policies have deeply polarized the nation and provoked extensive public protests, some of which are expected to continue in New York concurrent with the meeting, coinciding with the U.N. General Assembly.

Earlier this year, President Biden publicly criticized Netanyahu’s judiciary overhaul, encouraging him to seek compromise. However, negotiations with the Israeli opposition have been unproductive, and the ruling coalition has proceeded with its legislative agenda, securing parliamentary approval for the first significant piece of legislation in July.

Adding to the strain are the Biden administration’s criticisms of Israel’s stance on the Palestinian issue. The Israeli coalition, mostly comprised of far-right ultranationalists, has escalated settlement activities on lands claimed by Palestinians and opposes a two-state solution—both in contradiction to longstanding U.S. policies. This impasse has corresponded with increased hostilities in the West Bank.

In an official statement, the White House has said that the meeting would revolve around “mutual democratic values and envisioning a more stable, prosperous, and integrated region.”

The interaction occurs amid waning relations between Israel and the Democratic Party. A recent poll by The Big Big News-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggests that, while Americans generally regard Israel as an ally, there is growing skepticism about whether the current Israeli government aligns with American values.

Tom Nides, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, conceded that both the timing and location of the meeting reveal underlying policy discrepancies, but emphasized that the U.S. and Israel remain strong allies. “The relationship is as resilient as it ever has been,” he affirmed.

Biden administration representatives have played down the significance of the New York venue. Netanyahu is expected to secure an invitation to the White House in the future, though the timing may hinge on the outcome of the upcoming meeting.

High on Netanyahu’s agenda is expected to be the possibility of the U.S. mediating a diplomatic agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu has expressed that an accord with Saudi Arabia would represent a “quantum leap” for regional stability.

While the White House has confirmed its interest in such a deal, several impediments exist. Saudi Arabia is seeking nuclear cooperation and security assurances from the U.S., and also expects Israel to make notable concessions to the Palestinians.

President Biden is expected to make it explicit that any agreement must take into account Palestinian interests. Tensions with the Palestinian territories have also escalated under Israel’s far-right government, making Saudi Arabia cautious about proceeding with diplomatic normalization.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan declared that the only solution to the conflict would be the establishment of a Palestinian state—a notion Netanyahu’s senior ministers have already dismissed.

Israel is likewise keen to consult the U.S. regarding Iran, particularly given mutual concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is peaceful, though it has recently enriched uranium closer to weapon-grade levels than ever before.

Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and former Israeli ambassador to the U.N., acknowledged the symbolic shortfall of not meeting at the White House but emphasized, “The meeting remains significant and its occurrence should be appreciated.”

Reporting from Jerusalem, Federman contributed to this article.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about U.S.-Israel Relations

What is the significance of the meeting’s location being in New York rather than Washington D.C.?

The choice of New York as the meeting’s venue, as opposed to the traditional White House setting, is widely interpreted as a signal of strained relations between the U.S. and Israel. It deviates from the norm, where newly elected Israeli leaders are often invited to the White House within weeks of taking office.

Who are the key individuals involved in the meeting?

The key individuals are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden. Expert commentary is provided by Eytan Gilboa, a scholar in U.S.-Israeli affairs, and Tom Nides, former U.S. ambassador to Israel.

What are the major topics expected to be discussed during the meeting?

The primary topics anticipated for discussion include Netanyahu’s controversial plans to overhaul Israel’s judicial system, Israel’s stance on the Palestinian issue, and potentially the U.S.’ efforts to broker a diplomatic agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

What is the context regarding Israel’s judicial reforms?

Prime Minister Netanyahu argues that Israel’s non-elected judges have excessive influence over government decisions. His critics contend that by undermining the judiciary, Netanyahu is steering Israel toward authoritarian rule.

What has been the public reaction to Netanyahu’s policies?

Netanyahu’s policies, particularly his judicial reforms, have deeply divided the nation. Extensive public protests have been staged against his administration, and some of these protests are expected to continue in New York concurrent with the meeting.

How does the Biden administration view Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians?

The Biden administration has criticized the Israeli government’s approach toward the Palestinian territories. Netanyahu’s ruling coalition is largely composed of far-right ultranationalists who have increased settlement activities on lands claimed by Palestinians and oppose a two-state solution.

Is there any public opinion data regarding U.S.-Israel relations?

Yes, a recent poll by The Big Big News-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggests that while Americans generally view Israel as an ally, there is growing skepticism among Democrats about whether the Netanyahu-led government aligns with American values.

What are Saudi Arabia’s conditions for normalizing relations with Israel?

Saudi Arabia is seeking nuclear cooperation and security assurances from the U.S., and expects Israel to make significant concessions to the Palestinians. These demands pose obstacles to the potential diplomatic agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

More about U.S.-Israel Relations

  • U.S.-Israel Relations Overview
  • Benjamin Netanyahu’s Judicial Reforms
  • Biden Administration’s Middle East Policy
  • Recent Poll on U.S.-Israel Relations by The Big Big News-NORC Center
  • The Abraham Accords
  • Israel’s Settlement Activities in Palestinian Territories
  • Saudi Arabia’s Stance on Israel and the Palestinian Issue
  • Iran’s Nuclear Program and Its Regional Implications

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PaulJones September 20, 2023 - 1:19 pm

This meeting feels like it’s gonna be a game changer. But its surprising to hear that Democrats are questioning Israel’s values. When did that shift happen?

MikeBrown September 20, 2023 - 5:42 pm

so whats the big fuss about judicial reform? Does Netanyahu really think judges have that much power or is he just tryin to consolidate his own? makes u wonder.

SteveClark September 20, 2023 - 9:32 pm

Netanyahu and Biden are ‘longtime friends,’ yet they’re meeting in NY not DC? Doesn’t sound very friendly to me, more like a political calculation.

EmilyWilliams September 21, 2023 - 2:52 am

The way Israel’s treating the Palestinians needs to be talked about more. Hope this meeting brings some real change, though I’m not holding my breath.

AnnaLee September 21, 2023 - 3:01 am

The Iran angle is missing in most coverage. I mean, Iran’s basically on the brink of having nuclear capabilities. Isn’t that supposed to be a key discussion point?

JohnDoe September 21, 2023 - 3:55 am

Wow, this is a big deal! Meeting in New York instead of the White House? Thats definitely sayin’ something. A lot to unpack here.

SarahSmith September 21, 2023 - 5:40 am

Seems like a diplomatic chess game. The choice of location really caught my eye. Also, didn’t know that Saudi Arabia has conditions for normalizing relations. Interesting stuff.


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