White House “Surprised” by Netanyahu Snub

White House “Surprised” by Netanyahu SnubWhite House “Surprised” by Netanyahu Snub

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned down an offer to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington, the White House said.

The administration learned of Netanyahu’s move “via media reports”, according to a spokesman.

Netanyahu was expected to visit the US on March 18, National Security Council spokesman, Ned Price, said on Monday, AP reported.

“We were looking forward to hosting the bilateral meeting and we were surprised to first learn via media reports that the prime minister, rather than accept our invitation, opted to cancel his visit,” Price said.

The date for the visit was put forth by Israel, according to Price, and the White House agreed to it two weeks ago. The trip was meant to coincide with the summit of a major pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC.

“Reports that we were not able to accommodate the prime minister’s schedule are false,” he added.

There was no immediate comment from the office of Netanyahu.

The perceived snub indicates a large rift between the two leaders, which has been burdening US-Israeli relations ever since last year’s nuclear deal with Iran.

While Tel Aviv remains Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East, Netanyahu has repeatedly criticized the Iran accord, describing it as a “bad deal” bound to bolster a state hostile to Israel.

Netanyahu defied diplomatic conventions by addressing the US Congress directly last March, on an invitation from the Republican party, urging them not to approve the White House-backed deal. He was denied a meeting with Obama during his trip, which preceded Israeli elections.

However, the two leaders met in November in a push to mend ties.

In February, Netanyahu and his aides suggested that Israel could wait for the new US president to take office in 2017, and potentially secure better terms.