Hoenlein: U.S. Ambassador Skipping Netanyahu’s UN Speech ‘Bad Optics’

A report that President Barack Obama ordered U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech to the United Nations General Assembly was inaccurate, a top Jewish leader said on Friday.

“I’ve looked into it, I’ve spoken to Power about it, and the fact is that the U.S. Ambassador did not attend any speeches and did plan to attend the prime minister’s speech. But there was an emergency national security council meeting, it was because of a particular development, and Power was called away for it,” Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told radio host Nachum Segal on the “JM in the AM” radio program Friday morning. “The one thing Ambassador Power has done (in the past) is to be present for Netanyahu’s speech… There was no walkout. They weren’t there and the didn’t walk out. Kerry wasn’t even in New York at the time.”

But Hoenlein did caution the absence and the presence of a low-level delegation as “bad optics.”

“What I do think the problem was with the UN session was the optics. It was a question of how did the other countries read it. When they saw the absence, did they look for Samantha Power?” he asserted. “Was she there when el-Sisi of Egypt spoke or when other leaders spoke? No. Nobody bothers to check. But when Israel is there, because of the tension that exists, everybody focuses attentions on it, and everybody looks who is there, who is to the right and who is to the left, and what level were they.”

“So, I do not believe this was a deliberate thing. I do believe, however, that the optics that it created, the impression that resulted from it is of concern,” Hoenlein added.

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.