Israel denies 'surprise' claim at Netanyahu's White House no-show

Jerusalem: Israel yesterday refuted a White House claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “surprised” the Obama administration by cancelling a planned visit to Washington, saying that the White House knew Netanyahu was considering not coming.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was slated to visit America this month, but he cancelled his plans. Pic/AFP
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was slated to visit America this month, but he cancelled his plans. Pic/AFP

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 US presidential primaries.

Tense relations
The spat comes amid tense relations with US President Obama in the last year of his presidency, and shortly before US Vice President Joe Biden was set to touch down in Israel.

The White House said Israel had proposed two dates for a meeting between the leaders and the US had offered to meet on one of those days. But Netanyahu’s office said Israel’s ambassador to the US had already informed the White House last week there was a “good chance” Netanyahu would not make the trip. It said the ambassador told the White House there would be a final decision yesterday.

That day, Israeli news reports erroneously reported that Netanyahu would not travel because he was unwilling to meet with Obama.

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