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Obama declines to meet Netanyahu, PM nixes US trip

President Obama foregoes meeting with Netanyahu in favor of flight to Cuba for first US presidential trip since 1920s.

David Rosenberg,

Netanyahu and Obama at the White House
Netanyahu and Obama at the White House
Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has canceled his annual trip to the United States after President Barack Obama declined to schedule a meeting with him.

Netanyahu had planned a visit to the US coinciding with the annual AIPAC summit planned for March 20 through 22. Netanyahu has made attending AIPAC’s annual conference a tradition, missing the event only twice.

Officials around the Prime Minister pointed out that the trip would take place in the middle of a heated presidential primary season, and Netanyahu is looking to avoid becoming entangled in internal American politics.

They also noted that Vice President Joe Biden is set to arrive in Israel this week for meetings with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leaders, and that the Israeli Prime Minister would be able to convey important messages through the Vice President.

Another reason for the cancellation appears to be a failure of Obama and Netanyahu to reach an agreement over the next Memorandum of Understanding.

The document, which plots the course of military cooperation between the US and Israel – including foreign aid – for the next decade, is a sticking point in the relationship between the two leaders. In light of the disagreement, it appears that President Obama declined to meet with Netanyahu.

It is also notable that President Obama scheduled the first presidential trip to Cuba since Calvin Coolidge 88 years ago to coincide with the annual AIPAC conference, with full awareness that this would likely absent the President from Washington during Netanyahu’s annual trip.