Netanyahu won’t meet Obama on DC trip, rivals criticise Congressional address


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday accepted an invitation to address Congress just two weeks before Israel’s general election. However, the White House confirmed that he won’t meet President Obama during the visit.

US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner extended the invitation earlier this week for Netanyahu “to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security.” However, Boehner had not informed the White House in advance, considered a breach of protocol. Boehner and other Republicans in Congress are spearheading proposed legislation which would re-impose sanctions on Iran if an agreement on its nuclear programme is not concluded by the end of June. President Obama has made clear that he will oppose such legislation, as he believes it would endanger ongoing negotiations with Iran.

Netanyahu’s office yesterday confirmed that he had accepted Boehner’s invitation and would address Congress on 3 March. Netanyahu said that the invitation “reflects the special friendship between Israel and the US, as well as the strong bi-partisan support for Israel.” However, media reports suggest that Netanyahu’s address is viewed by the White House as collaboration with President Obama’s political opponents. The two leaders are thought to disagree over aspects of a potential nuclear deal with Iran.

White House spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said Obama would not meet Netanyahu during his visit in keeping with “long-standing practice and principle” not to meet with candidates in close proximity to their elections. However, the Guardian contrasts this stance with Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent warm welcome in Washington.

Back in Israel, Labour MK Nachman Shai accused Netanyahu of “trampling on the framework of our relations with the US” for the sake of his personal political gain, a view echoed by another Labour MK Shelly Yachimovich who said the “unacceptable bypass of the President of the United States … simply damages us.” A Meretz spokesperson told Bloomberg that broadcasting Netanyahu’s Congressional address in Israel would constitute “a blatant violation of campaign laws.”