Obama and Netanyahu Clash From Afar Over Israeli’s Planned Speech


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WASHINGTON — The latest conflict between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel erupted into public view on Monday, as the two leaders clashed from afar over Mr. Netanyahu’s plans to visit Washington next month and the direction of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

At a White House news conference, Mr. Obama signaled his displeasure with the speech Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to give in March to a joint meeting of Congress at the invitation of Speaker John A. Boehner, suggesting that his visit two weeks before the Israeli election risked injecting politics into the relationship between the United States and Israel.

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“It’s important for us to maintain these protocols, because the U.S.-Israeli relationship is not about a particular party,” Mr. Obama said, defending his decision to refuse to meet with the Israeli prime minister during the trip. “The way to preserve that is to make sure that it doesn’t get clouded with what could be perceived as partisan politics.”
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Obama Defends Refusal to Meet Netanyahu

Obama Defends Refusal to Meet Netanyahu

During an appearance with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Obama defended his decision not to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel two weeks before the election there.
Video by Reuters on Publish Date February 9, 2015. Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

But in Jerusalem, Mr. Netanyahu vowed that he would go forward with the speech, despite increasing pressure in Israel and the United States to cancel or alter his plans to use it to appeal directly to American lawmakers for a harder line against Iran.
The dispute over politics and protocol dramatized a deepening rift between the American president and the Israeli prime minister over a potential nuclear deal with Tehran, with Mr. Obama arguing at his news conference for time to allow the diplomatic talks to bear fruit and Mr. Netanyahu warning of the emergence of a dangerous agreement that would threaten Israel.“A bad deal with Iran is taking shape in Munich, one that will endanger the existence of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said Monday at a Likud Party election event in Jerusalem. “Therefore I am determined to travel to Washington and to present Israel’s position before the members of Congress and the American people.”Mr. Obama said that while he saw no reason to extend the Iran negotiations past a late-March target for a framework agreement, it was important that the talks be allowed to continue before further sanctions were imposed.“It does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they’re about to be completed, and we should play that out,” the president said during a joint news conference at the White House with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.If no deal can be reached, Mr. Obama said, he will work with Congress to apply “even stronger” sanctions.“But what’s the rush?” he added.Beyond the substantive questions surrounding the nuclear talks, the politically charged dispute over the timing and scheduling of Mr. Netanyahu’s visit persisted in both the United States and Israel.Asked about reports that he was “outraged” by Mr. Netanyahu’s plans, the president, standing beside Ms. Merkel, made a pointed comparison: “As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election, she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House — and I suspect she wouldn’t have asked for one.”


Multimedia Feature: Timeline on Iran’s Nuclear Program