The White House told Israel Tuesday that there would be no meeting later this month between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack H. Obama. The two had been set to meet in the days after both Obama and Netanyahu spoke at the UN General Assembly, but on Tuesday, Israeli officials said that the meeting had been canceled altogether by Obama, due to “schedule issues.”
A tentative meeting had been set for Thursday or Friday September 27 or 28, after both leaders spoke at the UN. Obama was scheduled to speak on Tuesday, September 18, while Netanyahu was likely to speak on Thursday – a day after Yom Kippur, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad ws set to speak. Netanyahu's office had sent a message to the White House indicating that the Prime Minister wanted to meet Obama, and that he was prepared to travel to Washington to do so, since he understood that the President had a tough campaigning schedule in advance of the Presidential elections.
This will mark the first time that Netanyahu will be on U.S. soil and will not meet with Obama. The rejection of the meeting comes scant weeks before the U.S. Presidential elections. Polls show Obama running roughly evenly with his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney.
The rejection of a meeting by the White House comes after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's rebuffing of comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that the U.S. would not set any 'red lines' for Iran's development of nuclear weapons. Netanyahu, speaking at a press conference with visiting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, said that “those in the international community who refuse to place red lines before Iran have no moral right to place a red line before Israel. If Iran knows that there are no red lines or deadlines, what will it do? Exactly what it does today – continuing to work to acquire a nuclear weapon without and interference. The world tells Israel to wait because there is time, and I ask, 'Wait for what?'
Defense Minister Ehud Barak sought to soften the Prime Minister's comments. Barak said that Israel “must not forget that the U.S. is Israel's chief ally. The U.S. and Israel have intimate intelligence relations, and the U.S. is Israel's main supporter in security matters.” He added that the U.S. and Israel have a friendship “based on many years of friendship and shared values between Israel and the American people. Despite the differences, and Israel's freedom to act in a manner to defend itself, we must remember the importance of our relationship with the U.S., and that it must not be harmed,” Barak said.