Yesterday, the Obama administration expressed “surprise” that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had canceled a planned visit to DC later this month, denying a report from Israeli media that the White House couldn’t arrange a meeting between Obama and Netanyahu. The visit was planned to coincide with the American-Israeli Political Affairs Committee’s annual conference. The White House claims that Israel had proposed for the two leaders to meet either on March 17 or 18, with the US offering to meet on March 18. Yet a report from Haaretz claimed that “no appropriate time” could be found to hold the meeting, and earlier today the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said that there was a “good chance” Netanyahu wouldn’t make the trip.
While it might be easy to dismiss this incident as nothing more than a conflict with scheduling, in reality it points to ongoing tensions between the US and the small Middle Eastern nation. Relations between the US and Israel have deteriorated since Obama chose to pursue a nuclear deal with Iran, and this flare-up is coming just days before Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem.
This isn’t the first time that Netanyahu has flaked on Obama. Last year, Netanyahu announced plans to speak to a joint session of Congress without consulting or notifying the President, which the White House called a breach of diplomatic protocol. Netanyahu had used that speech to implore American lawmakers to reject the Iran nuclear deal, which he was afraid would embolden their enemy Iran. How this entire situation pans out, and whether or not Israeli-US relations will improve or deteriorate with the next President in office, remains to be seen.
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