Netanyahu to miss U.N. meetings over Sukkot schedule clash

Prime Minister Benjamin after the sun sets on the second day of Sukkot there, in order not to publicly violate the holiday. The second day of Sukkot is a holiday for Jews in the Diaspora, but not for those living in Israel.

Netanyahu is going to the US to take part in the annual UN General Assembly meeting. He is scheduled to return to Israel on Sunday, a few hours before the onset of Simchat Torah.

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In general terms, halachah (Jewish law) prohibits Jews living in Israel who are abroad during the second day of the holiday from partaking publicly in activity prohibited on Shabbat or the holidays, though under certain circumstances they may do these activities in private.

El Al, which does not fly on Shabbat or holidays, does fly on the second day of Sukkot.

The very public spectacle of the prime minister carrying on with business as usual in New York, while thousands of local Jews are either in synagogues or have told their employers that they can’t work that day because it is a religious holiday, could have caused a degree of discomfort for those Jews abroad observing the holiday, and created coalition difficulties for Netanyahu with the religious parties in his government.

Netanyahu is scheduled to deliver his speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday. US President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his address to the world body on Tuesday – the day the general debate opens –  before Netanyahu lands.

Trump is scheduled, however, to remain in New York for a couple of extra days, and is expected to meet Netanyahu – as he did last year – on the sidelines of the UN meeting. The US president is slated to chair a UN Security Council session on Wednesday – the US holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month – where the focus will be on Iran.

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Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, told The Jerusalem Post that he has had to explain the intricacies of the two-day Sukkot holiday situation to the delegations of some countries whose leaders have asked to meet Netanyahu, since as a result of Netanyahu arriving only on Tuesday evening – thereby missing the first day of the UN general debate – he may not be able to meet as many leaders as he would have liked.

Some of those leaders will be speaking themselves on Tuesday, and then flying directly out that night,  making bilateral meetings impossible to set up.

No schedule of whom Netanyahu will be meeting has yet been released, though generally he meets a number of foreign leaders in New York for the UN meeting. In addition to Trump, Netanyahu also met publicly last year with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

This will be Netanyahu’s eighth address to the UN General Assembly since taking office for a second time in 2009. The only year he missed was in 2010, when then foreign minister Avigdor Liberman went in his place and delivered a speech that, when it came to the Palestinians, was at odds with Netanyahu’s own stated policies at the time.

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