White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Friday explained that President Barack Obama’s decision not to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he visits Washington to address Congress, is related solely to the timing of the visit - close to the Israeli elections.
Speaking to reporters, Earnest said that even if there are disagreements between the United States and Israel, Washington remains committed to Israel’s security.
The comments were made a day after the White House made clear that neither Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet Netanyahu while he is in Washington for his speech before Congress.
“It is common that the leader of a country who comes to visit the United States will coordinate this with the president. This is not a deviation from the protocol,” Earnest said on Friday, according to Channel 10 News, though he stressed that "at this point the president does not plan to meet with Netanyahu because the visit is before the Israeli elections, and we do want to create a false impression of interference in the elections."
The White House spokesman dismissed speculations that Obama’s refusal to meet Netanyahu is connected to troubled relations between the two.
"As you may have noticed, Obama has spent more time talking with Netanyahu than with any other leader in the world. The United States and Israel have a clear security interest, and our commitment to Israel's national security remains unshakeable,” stressed Earnest.
"We have differences with the current prime minister of Israel, but it does not contradict our commitment to Israel’s security even for a moment," he continued. "We would prefer if Netanyahu shared the same vision as Obama regarding the crisis with Iran, but he does not."
Earlier this week, Earnest gave an icy response to news that Netanyahu was invited to address Congress, saying it was a departure from diplomatic protocol.
"We haven't heard from the Israelis directly about the trip at all," he said Wednesday, hours after House speaker John Boehner announced Netanyahu's invitation. "The typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he is traveling there... So this particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol."
ThePolitico website revealed on Wednesday that the invitation to Netanyahu to address 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.
Democratic leaders in the Senate were livid over the invitation to Netanyahu, with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid saying that Republican congressional leaders did not consult him on inviting Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress, but adding he would welcome the speech.
Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House Democrats, used harsher language, blasting Boehner for failing to consult with Democrats.
“It's out of the ordinary that the Speaker would decide that he would be inviting people to a joint session without any bipartisan consultation,” she said.
"It's hubris to say 'I rule, I'll decide,' without any sensitivity" to the upcoming Israeli elections, charged Pelosi.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)