CNN — President Joe Biden is set to hold a long-anticipated meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday in New York, marking the first time the two leaders will meet one-on-one since the prime minister returned to office last December.
The meeting will be their first opportunity to confer face-to-face amid tensions over the Israeli leader’s judicial reform efforts.
Biden and Netanyahu will “discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues focused on the shared democratic values between the United States and Israel and a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region, as well as to compare notes on effectively countering and deterring Iran,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters last week.
The meeting, notably, will take place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly rather than the White House, where Biden will host Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky later this week.
Netanyahu has not been invited to the White House since he re-took his nation’s top post, a move widely interpreted as linked to the Biden administration’s disapproval of the Israeli government’s proposed judicial reforms.
Earlier this year as mass protests and strikes brought Israel to a standstill, Biden offered an unusually stinging rebuke of the proposed reforms.
“Like many strong supporters of Israel, I’m very concerned. I’m concerned that they get this straight. They cannot continue down this road. I’ve sort of made that clear,” Biden told reporters in March.
“Hopefully the prime minister will act in a way that he can work out some genuine compromise,” he said, adding “That remains to be seen.”
Israel’s Supreme Court held hearings on the law to curb its powers last week.
Netanyahu’s office trumpeted in July that he had been “invited” to meet Biden in the US, but the White House pointedly declined to call it an invitation and previously wouldn’t say where the leaders would meet.
Biden is also set to hold a bilateral meeting with Brazilian President Lula da Silva, with whom he’ll also participate in a labor-focused event. Later Wednesday, he attends a pair of campaign fundraisers before returning to Washington, DC.
In the meeting with Lula, the two leaders will announce an international partnership for workers’ rights, a senior administration official told CNN.
Per a senior administration official, Wednesday’s partnership is the result of two leaders “uniquely aligned in their common vision for how the economy should work for workers,” and is part of an effort on Biden’s part “to strengthen and expand our bilateral partnership to promote workers’ rights, and in doing so, address some of the most salient challenges facing working people around the world.”
Wednesday’s meeting marks the second time the two presidents have met face-to-face – previously, Biden hosted Lula at the White House just one month after protesters aligned with far-right former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed government institutions in Brasilia following Bolsonaro’s election loss.
According to the official, both nations will use the partnership to address myriad challenges the two nations see facing the global economy, including worker exploitation, forced labor and child labor, increasing accountability in public and private investments, the transition to clean energy, challenges emerging from the digital economy, and discrimination against women, the LGBTQ+ community, and racial and ethnic groups.
But the announcement comes as the Biden administration faces challenges of its own with respect to labor – on Wednesday, the United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, which make cars under the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands, enters its sixth day, with economists warning the US economy is already getting bruised. From Hollywood writers to nurses, factory workers, and Starbucks baristas, thousands of workers have gone on strike in recent months to demand higher pay and improved benefits and working conditions.
“Nothing about this initiative should be interpreted as discouraging or limiting the right to strike, which is a key part of freedom of association, collective bargaining and workers’ rights, generally speaking,” the official told reporters on a call previewing Wednesday’s announcement.
And while the partnership is beginning as a bilateral partnership, officials left the door open for additional countries signing on.
“We do hope to expand to other partners, but we want to make sure that we have a good sense of the lines of effort that we hope the initiative will include, and how we want to implement those efforts, those lines of effort, before we expand other partners,” the official said Tuesday.
Wednesday marks Biden’s second day at the UN General Assembly. On Tuesday, he made a forceful case for supporting Ukraine as Russia’s war is on the cusp of its second winter. That argument comes as Congress gears up for a spending battle with an uncertain path forward for future US aid to the war-torn country.