Foreign leader running for reelection? Don’t expect to swing by the White House. Or at least that’s President Obama’s explanation for why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t be invited to stop by when he visits the U.S. next month, just weeks before he’s scheduled to face voters back home.
“As much as I love Angela [Merkel], if she were two weeks from an election, she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House – and I suspect she wouldn’t have asked for one,” President Obama said during a joint press conference Monday with the German chancellor at the White House.
Obama did say he has “very real differences” with the Israeli prime minister on the subject of sanctions against Iran, arguing that slapping additional sanctions on Tehran while high-stakes negotiations over the country’s nuclear program are nearing an end would be counterproductive. “It doesn’t make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two” before they’re scheduled to conclude, the president said.
Netanyahu is scheduled to address Congress next month; in a break with usual protocol, House Speaker John Boehner invited him to do so without first consulting with the White House. Dozens of high-profile Democrats – including Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and top black leaders with the Congressional Black Caucus – have said they plan to skip the speech.
In the joint press conference Monday, Obama suggested that his disagreements with the prime minister extend beyond the mounting diplomatic fallout. “There are real differences substantively but that’s separate from the whole issue of Netanyahu coming to Washington,” he said.