President Obama won’t meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he travels to Washington in March the invitation of Republican leaders, the White House said Thursday.
A day after the administration was caught flat-footed by Mr. Netanyahu agreeing to speak to Congress, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the president doesn’t meet with foreign heads of state or candidates near their own elections.
“Accordingly, the president will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the U.S. Congress,” Ms. Meehan said.
A White House spokesman said Wednesday that it was a breach of protocol for Mr. Netanyahu to agree to the invitation without first notifying the president. Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, told the White House after extending the invitation.
Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to Congress on March 3 and will lobby for more sanctions on Iran, a move which has partisan support on Capitol Hill. Mr. Obama is urging lawmakers not to approve additional sanctions, saying it would jeopardize ongoing denuclearization talks.
The invitation was a coordinated effort by Mr. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, with staff discussions beginning last year, a senior Republican aide told The Associated Press.