Obama turns down Netanyahu meeting request
Obama meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN in 2011. (Reuters)
President Barack Obama won't meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of September's U.N. General Assembly in New York, a spokesman confirmed Tuesday after Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that the White House had turned down a request for talks. But it's not a snub, the aide said. It's due to Obama's busy election-year schedule.
"The President arrives in New York for the UN on Monday, September 24 and departs on Tuesday, September 25. The Prime Minister doesn't arrive in New York until later in the week," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told reporters by email.
"They're simply not in the city at the same time. But the President and PM are in frequent contact and the PM will meet with other senior officials, including Secretary Clinton, during his visit."
The Haaretz report said the request was "declined" and that this "marks a new low" in relations between Obama and Netanyahu, who has publicly criticized Washington for not taking a harder line on Iran's nuclear program. (Still, Haaretz noted that "Netanyahu will spend only two and a half days on U.S. soil" and the White House "said that at this time Obama's schedule does not allow for a meeting.")
Mitt Romney has repeatedly accused Obama of shortchanging the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
But a knowledgeable American official stressed it wasn't personal, saying Obama's schedule was in flux and emphasizing that he doesn't anticipate the president "will have any bilats [bilateral meetings with foreign leaders] at UNGA [the U.N. General Assembly] this year."
"If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin."