Netanyahu’s office disputes US surprise at canceled DC trip
by Daniel Estrin | March 8, 2016
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Tuesday disputed a White House claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “surprised” the Obama administration by canceling a planned visit to Washington, saying that the White House knew Netanyahu was considering not coming.
Netanyahu had been expected to visit later in March on a trip coinciding with a major pro-Israel group’s annual summit, but his office said he would not travel because he did not wish to come at the height of U.S. presidential primaries.
The spat comes amid tense relations with President Barack Obama in the last year of his presidency, and shortly before Vice President Joe Biden was set to touch down in Israel.
… “We were looking forward to hosting the bilateral meeting,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council. “We were surprised to first learn via media reports that the prime minister, rather than accept our invitation, opted to cancel his visit.”
But Netanyahu’s office said Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. had already informed the White House last week there was a “good chance” Netanyahu would not make the trip.
Netanyahu was invited to address a summit of the pro-Israel group AIPAC. An Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said Netanyahu wanted to avoid potential meetings with presidential candidates at the summit.
… “It’s a tumultuous primary season in the United States … we don’t want to inject ourselves into that tumultuous process,” the official said.
It was the latest signal of ongoing tensions between the U.S. and its closest Mideast ally. Relations between Israel and the U.S. never fully recovered after Obama incensed Netanyahu’s government by pursuing and then enacting a nuclear deal with Iran. (Read More)
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