White House: Obama Will Not Meet Netanyahu, Nor will Kerry

Leftists say Netanyahu's speech in Congress, set for March 3 ahead of March 17 polls, is an election ploy, demand Israeli TV ignore it.

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Gil Ronen, | updated: 19:52

Barack Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu
Barack Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

The White House said Thursday evening that President Barack Obama will not meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when the Israeli leader visits Washington in early March.

The decision, said the White House, is in line with US policy not to meet foreign leaders on dates that are close to national elections in their countries.

"The president will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election," said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan‏

US Secretary of State John Kerry has also released a statement in which he said that he will not be meeting with Netanyahu during his March visit.

The announcement follows that of the White House, whose spokesperson said that President Barack Obama will not be meeting with Netanyahu at that time either. Both the White House spokesperson and State's spokesperson, Jen Psaki, cited the reason that it is US policy to refrain from meeting with heads of state shortly prior to elections so as to avoid influencing the outcome.

The date for Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to Congress has been pushed back by a fortnight to March 3, House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday on his Twitter feed.

Boehner said that Netanyahu asked that the speech be rescheduled so that he can participate in the annual AIPAC conference as well. This means that the speech to Congress will be delivered just two weeks before the Israeli elections on March 17.

Netanyahu wrote Boehner: "I am honored by this invitation, which reflects the special friendship shared by Israel and the United States as well as the strong bipartisan support for Israel across America. 

"Just last week I discussed with President Obama the common challenges we face from Islamist extremism, including resurgent terrorism and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"I look forward to being able to share with the joint session Israel's vision for working together to address these threats and to reiterate Israel's commitment to the bond that unites our two democracies."

Ignoring Obama

Politico said that the invitation to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address the United States Congress was extended by Boehner without consulting the White House or the State Department. Instead, Boehner’s and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s staff coordinated with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

The idea has been under discussion in Republican leadership since before the 2014 midterm election, noted Politico.

On January 8, just two days after Boehner was re-elected speaker, he called Dermer - a native of Miami Beach, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and close adviser to Netanyahu - to gauge the prime minister’s interest. The Israeli embassy gave a “quick affirmative response,” a Republican aide told Politico.

Boehner’s office then provided a list of dates for a potential address, and the embassy chose the week of February 9.

This date has now been reset to March 3.

The left-wing is very unhappy about the speech, which it says is an election ploy and constitutes an intervention in the Israeli election by pro-Netanyahu elements in Congress.

Attorney Eldad Yaniv, number 30 on the Labor and Hatnua “Zionist Camp” list, has filed a motion to the Elections Committee demanding that the speech not be carried by the television networks, since it will be “obviously” be used by Netanyahu for election propaganda.