Washington cites ‘scheduling conflicts’ as only reason US president, Israeli PM won’t meet later in September
WASHINGTON – The White House denied Tuesday that US President Barack Obama refused a request made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet in Washington later in September, while Netanyahu will be visiting the United States.
Earlier, a Jerusalem official said that White House rejected Netanyahu’s request for a meeting, adding that when a request to that effect was made by Netanyahu’s aides, “The White House has got back to us and said that the president’s schedule will not permit that.”
Netanyahu has met with Obama on all the Israeli leader’s US trips since 2009.
The White House was quick to release a statement clarifying that the meeting would not be possible over the two leader’s conflicting schedules.
“They’re simply not in the city at the same time,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said. “The President arrives in New York for the U.N. on Monday, September 24th and departs on Tuesday, September 25th.”
“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 added.
Vietor stressed that Obama and Netanyahu were in “frequent contact” and the Israeli premier would meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as other top Washington officials, during his US trip.
Netanyahu is traveling to the US to attend the UN General Assembly. Obama is expected to address the UNGA on September 25, while Netanyahu will speak in New York on September 28.
But privately, US officials have bristled at how Israel has publicly played up the differences and publicly lectured Washington on its responsibilities.
They have also been irked by what they see is Netanyahu’s attempts to exploit the campaign season to push the US into difficult positions.
Though they stopped short of accusing Netanyahu of taking sides in the election, the Israeli prime minister has a longtime relationship with Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Romney, who visited Israel in July, has repeatedly criticized Obama’s handling of the nuclear issue.
Obama and Netanyahu have long had a rocky relationship, because of policy differences and a lack of personal chemistry. In one famous incident, a frustrated Obama left a White House meeting with Netanyahu to go eat dinner with his family.
US and Israeli officials confirmed Tuesday that Obama would not meet with Netanyahu when the Israeli leader goes to New York for the UN General Assembly later this month. Both sides cited scheduling issues and rejected suggestions that Netanyahu had been snubbed.