For the first time ever, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will visit the United States as prime minister without being granted a personal meeting with the president.
According to Israel's daily, Haaretz, the White House declined Netanyahu's request for such a meeting, a development which may indicate the growing personal divide between Obama and Netanyahu (who will be in the U.S. at the end of September for a U.N. conference).
An official in Jerusalem said that the prime minister's office sent the White House a message stating that although Netanyahu will spend only two and a half days on U.S. soil, he is interested in meeting Obama and is willing to travel to the U.S. capital specifically for that purpose. The official added that the White House rejected the request and said that at this time Obama's schedule does not allow for a meeting.President Obama has many reasons to be upset with Netanyahu, from his derisive speech before a joint session of Congress in 2011 to his public attacks on Obama's Iran stance.
The White House's response marks a new low in relations between Netanyahu and Obama, underscored by the fact that this is the first time Netanyahu will visit the U.S. as prime minister without meeting the president.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak tried to ease the tension on Tuesday, saying that the differences between the U.S. and Israel should be ironed out "but behind closed doors."
However, what may have sent Obama over the edge is the fact that, today, of all days – on the anniversary of 9/11 – Netanyahu chose to launch a veiled and public verbal attack on Obama's Iran position:
Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu launched an unprecedented verbal attack on the U.S. government over its stance on the Iranian nuclear program.The Obama administration, which has kept military intervention on the table, responded by stating that such issues would be better discussed in private, and not in public.
"The world tells Israel 'wait, there's still time'. And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?' Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel," Netanyahu told reporters on Tuesday.
"Now if Iran knows that there is no red line. If Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it's doing. It's continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs," he said.
Rejected Netanyahu's request to meet in private.
In other words, after today's insensitive verbal assault by Netanyahu, on 9/11 no less, the President answered Israel's request to meet privately with a simple response.
"No thank you."
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As Mindful Nature noted in the comments, the White House is denying this report (according to Politico). This is in odds with the Haaretz story, which quotes a Dept. of State spokeswoman.
While the reality of this snub remains in flux, the underlying tensions still remain. And while it's not in Obama's nature to make such a move, nor make noise on this issue, it's difficult to take the White House's denial as a true reflection of what's going on behind the scenes.
Why? The reasoning isn't solid:"The Prime Minister doesn't arrive in New York until later in the week. They're simply not in the city at the same time. But the President and PM are in frequent contact and the PM will meet with other senior officials, including Secretary Clinton, during his visit," Vietor said.Netanyahu made clear that he would fly to D.C. to meet with Obama, and arrange it at the White House's convenience.