President Obama arrived in New York City on Sunday evening for three days that will mix election-year politics with a farewell to the world stage at the United Nations. But the visit comes against a suddenly tense backdrop, after a powerful explosion rocked a Manhattan street and a man claiming fealty to the Islamic State stabbed several people in a Minnesota shopping mall.
The president’s diplomatic schedule also got more complicated. The White House announced Sunday that he would hold meetings at the United Nations with leaders from Israel and China. Both will be closely watched for signs of friction in relationships that have been marked by tension during Mr. Obama’s tenure.
On Wednesday, he is scheduled to confer with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at a time when he is weighing whether to propose his own framework for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over Mr. Netanyahu’s objections. The two leaders have clashed repeatedly over the Iran nuclear agreement and Mr. Obama’s pursuit of Middle East peace.
The meeting could be their last face-to-face encounter before Mr. Obama’s term ends in January. Last week, the United States and Israel sealed a $38 billion, 10-year American security aid package to Israel, the largest ever granted to an ally. Officials in both countries have characterized the deal as proof that the American-Israeli relationship is enduring, whatever the strains between the two men.
On Monday, Mr. Obama is scheduled to have a brief session with China’s premier, Li Keqiang, a week after North Korea tested another nuclear device. The president is expected to press Mr. Li to use China’s influence to discipline the North, something the Chinese have resisted for fear of destabilizing an impoverished neighbor.
Mr. Obama returned recently from a trip to Hangzhou, China, which was marred by a messy arrival at the airport that led to shouting matches between American and Chinese officials. Administration officials played down the significance of the episode, saying Mr. Obama’s talks with President Xi Jinping were not affected.
This will be Mr. Obama’s last appearance at the United Nations, and his aides said he would use it to recall his diplomatic achievements and argue that his multilateral approach is a model for dealing with future crises. But the still-unexplained bombing in New York and the stabbings in Minnesota, which the F.B.I. is treating as a “potential act of terrorism,” guarantee that security will be at the forefront.
So will presidential politics. Mr. Obama arrived in New York a day earlier than usual so he could attend a fund-raiser in Manhattan for his preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Obama’s motorcade crossed Manhattan on 23rd Street, the site of Saturday’s explosion, though several blocks to the east, before arriving at Gramercy Park.
Mr. Obama spoke to 65 people at the apartment of the restaurateur Danny Meyer. The guests paid $25,000 each to attend, while the chairmen raised or contributed $250,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint organization of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee that raises money for Democrats up and down the ballot.
Mr. Obama said that despite the gulf in qualifications between Mrs. Clinton and the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, the election was likely to be close because of what he called the “structural” polarization of American society. And he spoke more starkly than he had before about the role gender is playing in the race.
“There’s a reason why we haven’t had a woman president,” Mr. Obama said. “We as a society still grapple with what it means to see powerful women. And it still troubles us in a lot of ways, unfairly.”
Mrs. Clinton has her own schedule of meetings at the United Nations, including with the presidents of Egypt and Ukraine and the prime minister of Japan. It was not clear whether she planned to meet with Mr. Netanyahu, a leader with whom she had her own clashes while secretary of state.
On Sunday, Mr. Obama made clear that now that he had demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security, he planned to press Mr. Netanyahu to move toward reconciliation with the Palestinians.
“The meeting also will be an opportunity to discuss the need for genuine advancement of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the face of deeply troubling trends on the ground,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.
Left unclear was whether Mr. Obama would go beyond simply urging Mr. Netanyahu. The president is considering whether to publicly lay out his own parameters for a settlement of the long-running conflict, a prospect Mr. Netanyahu has strongly opposed.
The president’s speech to the General Assembly would be a logical place for such a move, though his advisers say he might wait until after the November election to avoid its becoming part of campaign politics. If he proceeds, he could give a speech outlining his ideas or even encapsulate them in a resolution before the United Nations Security Council.
Aides to Mr. Obama say he has played his cards very close to his chest, not discussing his plans outside a tiny circle.
(via NY Times)