March 8, 2016
Despite differences, Washington still provides Israel with military aid amounting to US$3 billion annually.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declined an offer to meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House later this month and canceled his trip to Washington, the White House said Monday.
Netanyahu’s decision to decline the offer marks the latest episode in a fraught diplomatic relationship between Obama and the Israeli leader, Reuters report.
The White House said the Israeli government had requested that Netanyahu meet with Obama on either March 18 or 19 and that two weeks ago he was offered a March 18 encounter.
“We were looking forward to hosting the bilateral meeting, and we were surprised to first learn via media reports that the prime minister, rather than accept our invitation, opted to cancel his visit,” White House spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
“Reports that we were not able to accommodate the prime minister’s schedule are false,” he added.
Tensions between the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s government especially increased following last year’s nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 powers (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States plus Germany).
The Israeli prime minister made a speech to the U.S. Congress last March criticizing the then-emerging deal and was subsequently denied a meeting with Obama in what was widely regarded as a diplomatic snub.
But the two leaders met at the White House in November and sought to mend ties.
There has been no immediate word from Netanyahu’s office about March 18 cancellation, which comes as the two allies struggle to negotiate a new 10-year, multibillion-dollar defense aid agreement to Israel.
Despite differences, Washington still provides Israel with military aid amounting to US$3 billion annually, although the current deal expires in 2018.
Netanyahu and his aides are seeking an extension before Obama leaves office in January 2017. The Israeli government also suggested in February it could wait for the next president in order to negotiate better terms. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, on a five-day trip to the Middle East, is due to visit Israel later this week and hold talks with Netanyahu.