- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said he was fine with House Speaker John A. Boehner’s inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint meeting of Congress and blasted President Obama for his decision not to meet with Mr. Netanyahu while he’s in Washington.

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s been here before — I can’t understand why it would be a controversy other than maybe the president’s acting a little bit petulant over this because he wasn’t consulted,” Mr. Paul said on Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” Tuesday evening. “But it almost looks a little bit childish to me that he’s gonna make a big stink over, ‘oh, now I won’t even meet with an ally,’ who’s the head of state of an ally when he comes to Washington because he wasn’t consulted.

“It’s almost like where you sit on the plane, [whether] you get in the front side of the plane or the back side of the plane — it’s a little bit inconsequential, I think,” said Mr. Paul, who is laying the groundwork for a potential 2016 run at the White House.

“Israel’s an important ally, so I don’t understand why he would refuse to meet with him other than just sort of being, like I say, petulant or childish about not being consulted,” Mr. Paul said.

Mr. Obama said in an interview with CNN that he’s not meeting with Mr. Netanyahu because of the proximity of the scheduled visit to elections in Israel.

On an issue of major significance to Israel, Mr. Paul has actually broken with many in his party who want to impose additional sanctions on Iran as the U.S. engages in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Paul said he’s a fan of trying the diplomatic option as long as possible and if it fails, he would vote to have new sanctions.

“But if you do it in the middle of the negotiations you’re ruining it,” he said at a forum earlier this week sponsored by an affiliate of the conservative billionaire benefactors Charles and David Koch. “So many people on our side say, ‘Well, we don’t want 535 generals, the president should be in charge of war.’ But now they’re saying, ‘We want 535 negotiators, not the president.’ I don’t trust the president. I don’t believe or support him on almost anything he does. But at the same time, I do think diplomacy is better than war and we should give diplomacy a chance.”

But the issue over Mr. Netanyahu’s visit doesn’t represent the office well, he told Fox.

“I think if President Obama wants to look like an adult in the room and wants to be part of the adult conversation, yeah, absolutely, they should have never brought this up at all, it looks childish not to meet with Netanyahu when he comes, and so hopefully the president will get over his pique over this. … I don’t think it looks well or represents the presidency well to behave that way,” he said.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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