January 23, 2015
Coming only a day after President Obama pledged during the State of the Union address to veto any new Iran sanctions, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner announced that he has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress about Iran’s nuclear program and other issues.
The visit was scheduled without White House knowledge, and they were pretty upset once they found out about it.
White House spokesperson Josh Earnest called the invitation a breach of diplomatic protocol, saying leaders should contact other leaders before traveling to their country. When asked if President Obama would meet with Netanyahu during his visit, Earnest said the White House was waiting to see what Netanyahu planned to say to Congress before they would make a decision about a meeting.
The White House must not have liked what they heard. Now, they have definitively decided not to have a meeting, claiming the timing is too close to Israeli elections.
“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,” White House spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in an email to Talking Points Memo. “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.”
Some are saying the unannounced visit is a blatant stab at the Obama administration, but Boehner disagrees. When asked by a reporter if not notifying the White House was a “poke in the eye” to Obama, Boehner said, “The Congress can make this decision on its own. I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye.”
Netanyahu and Obama have had a tenuous relationship for years.
The clash first started in 2009 when Obama spoke in Cairo. He said that the U.S. “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements” on territory Palestinians claimed before 1967. In May 2011, Netanyahu lectured the president in the Oval Office on why Israel would not accept pre-1967 borders with Palestine. The White House was irate with Netanyahu for embarrassing the president.
The relationship started to look up briefly in September 2011 when Obama secured the release of Israelis trapped in their Cairo embassy. However, it took another dive in November, when a hot mic picked up conversation between Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, where Obama was heard saying, “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day.”
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