Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron DermerReuters

Israel's ambassador to Washington denied responsibility Friday for a protocol incident over an invitation for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address the US Congress, saying that Republican leaders made the decision.  

The White House had expressed frustration last week when House Speaker John Boehner, a main political adversary of President Barack Obama, announced Netanyahu had been invited to address a joint meeting of Congress just weeks before Israel's snap elections.

The White House signaled it was blindsided by the invitation, saying protocol dictated that national leaders contact one another when plans are being formulated for a visit.

"The final decision to invite the prime minister was made by the speaker's office," Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer told The Atlantic magazine in an email exchange published on the monthly's website.

"It was also made clear to me that it was the speaker's responsibility and normal protocol for the speaker's office to notify the administration of the invitation, including in my meeting with the secretary of state, until the speaker notified them," he added.

"That is why I felt it would be inappropriate for me to raise the issue with the administration."

Obama is not scheduled to meet with Netanyahu during the visit.

Israel's leader is expected to speak on the need to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu's visit coincides with Republican-led efforts in Congress to pass legislation tightening sanctions on Iran in the midst of critical international negotiations to prevent the Islamic republic from developing an atomic bomb.

Obama has threatened to veto such legislation, arguing new sanctions could torpedo the talks.

Dermer stressed that Netanyahu meant no disrespect to Obama by accepting Boehner's invitation.

"The prime minister and the president have disagreed on issues, but the prime minister has never intentionally treated the president disrespectfully - and if that is what some people felt, it certainly was not the prime minister's intention," Dermer said.