Early frost? White House gives chilly response to proposed Obama-Netanyahu meeting
Published September 11, 2012 FoxNews.com
The White House has brushed aside an offer by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with President Obama later this month, Israeli officials told Fox News. The apparent snub came despite a state of heightened alert over Iran’s nuclear program and the possibility of Israeli action.
Sources said Netanyahu, though he plans to be in New York City during his brief stay, was offering to travel to D.C. to make the meeting happen. However, the White House apparently said Obama’s tight schedule – the president is in the middle of a feverish campaign schedule -- would make a meeting difficult.
The turn-down comes amid increasing international anxiety about Iran’s nuclear program. The U.N. reportedly has found new intelligence showing Iran is moving toward nuclear weapon capability.
But the exchange between the White House and the prime minister’s office is the most recent in what is seen as a cool, if not strained, relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, despite Israel being considered one of the United State’s closest allies.
One well-placed Jewish-American leader told Fox News that the White House has not yet fully ruled out moving things around on the schedule in order to accommodate Netanyahu – but that as of now, Obama is scheduled to be on the campaign trail during the window of time when Netanyahu can make it to Washington.
“Discussions are ongoing,” the source emphasized.
Asked about relations between the two men, the source acknowledged they “are not warm and fuzzy” and that there is “a lot of tension” between the two governments, given the gravity of the issues under consideration. But overall, the source said the alliance remains strong, particularly in terms of military-to-military cooperation, and even in day-to-day interactions “up to and including the prime minister.”
Republicans were quick, though, to pounce on the apparent snub. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, tweeted: “How ironic that the #POTUS has time for high dollar $40K-a-head fundraiser with @JayZ and @Beyonce but not for the PM of Israel.”
The prime minister’s office told the White House that Netanyahu’s official visit will be short, starting on a Thursday and ending at sundown Friday because of the Sabbath.
He is staying in the U.S. through Sunday. One Israeli source said he “wouldn’t be surprised if things changed” regarding a meeting by the time Netanyahu arrives.
The White House, though, has not yet commented publicly on the matter.
Netanyahu will still travel to speak at the United Nation’s headquarters.