Obama Won’t Meet With Netanyahu When He Comes To Address Congress

US President Barack Obama (R) meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 03 March 2014. Photo by: Andrew Harrer/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
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President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when Netanyahu comes to Washington, D.C., in March to address a joint session of Congress at House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation.

Boehner’s invitation for Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran was described by experts as an “unprecedented” rebuke of Obama, but White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that the president would not meet personally with Netanyahu because of the upcoming elections in Israel.

“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” she said in an email to TPM. “Accordingly, the President will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the U.S. Congress.”

The White House had previously called Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu, extended without any consultation with the Obama administration, a breach of diplomatic protocol. Boehner said that he didn’t think he was “poking anyone in the eye.”

Netanyahu will address Congress on March 3. The Israeli elections are March 17. Multiple experts noted to TPM on Wednesday that Netanyahu’s address to Congress could have political benefits to him at home as his party faces a tough campaign.

“The one thing that the opposition can play is, ‘Look, you’re screwing up relations with the United States.’ But if Netanyahu’s invited, then that’s moot,” Jonathan Rynhold, a politics professor at Bar-Illan University near Tel Aviv, said. “It’s a good time, it’s a good issue. It works politically because it’s founded on what these people actually think.”

Meehan added that Obama had made clear his intentions to veto any legislation passed by Congress that would place new sanctions on Iran because they would disrupt ongoing negotiations over its nuclear program. Netanyahu has at times been a forceful critic of the international negotiations.

“The President has been clear about his opposition to Congress passing new legislation on Iran that could undermine our negotiations and divide the international community,” she said. “The President has had many conversations with the Prime Minister on this matter, and I am sure they will continue to be in contact on this and other important matters.”

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Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for marby marby says:

    I wasn’t sure what where the Obama administration would come down on such a meeting. This seems (to me) like an appropriate public reason for declining to meet.

  2. Ballsy move.

  3. Avatar for jsfox jsfox says:

    Bibi should be turning down the invite from Congress, but he is too short sighted and ego driven to realize it.

  4. Avatar for sufi66 sufi66 says:

    Netanyahu is a sociopath.

  5. I’m glad he’s not. I don’t personally believe Netanyahu has been good for Israel. Maybe Bibi will realize just how bat crap crazy the right wing GOP is… not likely, since he’s a right wing accelerator himself.

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