U.S. surprised about Netanyahu canceled visit

White House spokesman says the Americans learned from the media that Netanyahu is canceling his visit.

Elad Benari ,

Netanyahu and Obama at the White House
Netanyahu and Obama at the White House
Avi Ohayon/Flash 90

The United States reacted with surprise on Monday to news that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu canceled his annual trip to Washington.

Netanyahu had originally planned to visit the annual AIPAC summit, planned for March 20 through 22, but chose to cancel the trip after President Barack Obama declined to schedule a meeting with him.

Instead, Obama will be making his first trip to Cuba when Netanyahu would have been visiting the United States.

The White House claimed in response that it had offered an invitation two weeks ago to host Netanyahu for a meeting on March 18, but has learned through media reporters that the visit was off.

"We were looking forward to hosting the bilateral meeting, and we were surprised to first learn via media reports that the prime minister, rather than accept our invitation, opted to cancel his visit," said Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, according to Reuters.

"Reports that we were not able to accommodate the prime minister's schedule are false," Price made clear in an emailed statement.

Officials around the Prime Minister pointed out earlier 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 U.S. 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 Obama declined to meet with Netanyahu.