NEW YORK – Often worlds apart, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will only be separated by city blocks this week, as both head to New York to visit the United Nations.
Others converging on New York will be the new Egyptian and Libyan presidents as well as the chief of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
Yet Barack Obama, citing “campaign commitments” has shortened his visit to New York from three days to just two.
And, he only has a brief meeting with the Egyptian on his official schedule.
The Israelis already have a “welcoming” committee in place to “greet” Ahamdinejad in advance of the Netanyahu visit: Deputy Prime Minister/Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
Both have begun making their rounds to press Jerusalem’s case against the Iranian government.
Barak will be in New York to attend the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Ayalon arrived earlier in the week to host a U.N. symposium on Arab Jewish refugees which took place Friday.
The CGI, hosted by former President Bill Clinton, brings business and political leaders together to debate “world challenges.”
Aside from Barak, the CGI will also host Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Obama, who snubbed a Netanyahu meeting because of “scheduling” conflicts, has made no effort to meet Barak, yet both will in New York at the same time.
While the issue of recent turmoil in the Mideast is sure be raised when Obama briefly meets Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the Israeli-Iranian standoff is expected to take center stage.
Making his final visit as president (his current and last term in office expires in 2013), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to make a media blitz to press his government’s “rights” to pursue its nuclear “research” program.
Washington and the U.N. Security Council insist the program is a shell for a secret atomic-weapons project. Tehran denies it.
Israel insists time is running out and has been hinting it might act alone to derail Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, if the international community doesn’t.
The war of words is expected to heat up this week.
Ahmadinejad will “kick off” the latest sparring match Jerusalem by locating his New York headquarters in a hotel just across the street from the offices of the Israeli-U.N. mission. In fact, the office of Israel’s ambassador Ron Prosor has a clear view of the Iranian base of operations.
The fiery president intends to address the U.N. on Wednesday, Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays. Later that day, Ahamdinejad has invited a select group of reporters to a news conference. The timing is important, since it will be hours before the Israeli delegation, which will be observing the religious holiday, will be able to respond to any Iranian comments.
Not waiting for Ahamadinejad to arrive, Israel’s Ayalon took a few minutes late Friday to speak about the worsening situation.
“The fact that Ahamdinejad, as the representative of these very fanatic interests, this ayatollah regime in Tehran, is allowed in the halls of the United Nations is a shame and a discredit to the United Nations. It is also against the norms and its charter which cannot allow a representative of any regime, or any country which makes threats to annihilate another member of the U.N. to come and make its preposterous case and legitimize it.”
“Everything should be judged by developments on the ground. Until now, the Iranians continue to race illegally towards a nuclear capability. It is the commitment of, it is the duty of the entire international community to stop them, and I believe they will stopped.”
When asked if Israel was prepared to strike Iran unilaterally, Ayalon smiled and then cut the questioning.
Meanwhile, in Tehran, a senior military commander, Gen. Mohammad Ali Ja-afari speaking during a war games exercise labeled “Sacred Defense Week,” confessed that a war with Washington and Jerusalem “will eventually happen.”
The U.S./U.N. mission had no comments.