In the hubbub surrounding the “battle of the flotilla,” Netanyahu’s quick reversal of his decision to remain in the United States has been largely ignored. It turns out that Obama told him to leave because he didn’t want Netanyahu to use the White House as a stage on which to present Israel’s side of the story.
The flotilla violence caught Netanyahu in the midst of a diplomatic trip to North America. He was in the Canadian capital of Ottawa at the time, about to leave for Washington for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. The meeting was to have been a way for Obama to make up for the humiliation he dealt Netanyahu on his last visit, when he refused to be seen with the Israeli leader in public.
Netanyahu announced immediately after the flotilla news broke that he would remain in North America and would meet with Obama as scheduled. However, within minutes after media reported Netanyahu would continue with his trip as scheduled, he abruptly announced a change of plan and set off immediately for Israel to “deal with the flotilla crisis.”
Behind the scenes, it was Obama officials who caused the turnabout. Globes cites sources in both Jerusalem and Washington who say that Obama officials gave a clear message to Netanyahu’s people: “Don’t come.”
Officials in both Washington and Jerusalem deny that this was the case.
Some sources said that it was precisely the high-profile nature of the visit that scared the Americans. The White House did not wish Obama to be seen sharing the stage with the leader of the country that was under international attack for having “attacked peace activists.”
Netanyahu, for his part, was looking forward to explaining to the world from Washington that the violent activists on the boat in question were “terror activists” with ties to Hamas and Al-Qaeda, who attempted to lynch the minimally-armed soldiers as they rappelled down down their helicopter.