Some U.S. leaders to refuse meeting with Israeli PM during Washington trip

World Today

FILE – In this Feb. 8, 2015, file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office. Netanyahu on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, turned down an invitation to meet privately with Senate Democrats next week during his visit to Washington, saying the session “could compound the misperception of partisanship” surrounding his trip. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, Pool, File)

Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with lawmakers a few weeks before elections in Israel.
CCTV America’s Nathan King filed this report from Washington.

Some U.S. leaders to refuse meeting with Israeli PM during Washington trip

Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with lawmakers a few weeks before elections in Israel. CCTV America's Nathan King filed this report from Washington.

The last time Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned for reelection in 2012, the issue of Iran’s nuclear program was center stage. Now, just weeks before Israelis go to the polls, the stage this time will be Washington and an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress by the current Israeli incumbent.

Netanyahu was invited by Republican leadership who now controls the U.S. Congress and share the Israeli Prime Minister’s deep suspicions of a potential nuclear deal with Iran. The White House feels Netanyahu and Republicans are playing politics and the Administration says the visit could undermine the negotiations. President Obama has no plans to meet with Netanyahu in Washington.

“We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, 2 weeks before their elections,” the U.S. president said.

Relations between Obama and Netanyahu are frayed and the failure of Palestinian Israeli peace talks, the Israeli military campaign in Gaza and continued settlement building in occupied territory have deepened divisions to a point where senior U.S. officials have expressed total opposition to next week’s address.

“I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship,” said U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

Aaron David Miller is a former U.S. negotiator on Middle East peace and knows Netanyahu well. Miller believes this rift is far more than a personality clash between two governments.

“It’s less personal frankly in my judgment than it is driven by fundamentally different world views. Netanyahu has a different view, he sits in a different place,” Miller said.

Netanyahu is convinced Iran wants a nuclear weapon and he’s been sounding the warning about that prospect from the United Nations to the campaign trail where this week he said world powers are caving to Iran and will allow it to produce a nuclear weapon. He’s set to repeat that message in Washington.

According to Israel’s opinion polls, Netanyahu has a narrow lead, but many think his speech to the U.S. Congress is a political move designed to give his reelection chances a boost.

“I don’t think there is a single member of Congress that doesn’t know what the Prime Minister of Israel’s position is on the issue, so the notion that he has to come and make this speech at this moment in order that they know what he thinks, you know I think is not the case,” Jeremy Ben-Ami of the blog J Street said.

The rift over Netanyahu’s speech continues to divide Washington with many Democrats including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden planning not to attend. All this may seem like petty politics, but many here say the relationship between Israel and the United States has never felt frostier.

CCTV America