Former Florida governor and expected Republican presidential primary candidate Jeb Bush criticized US President Barack Obama for holding talks with Cuban leader Raul Castro while refusing to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the latter’s last trip to Washington.
“Obama meets with Castro but refused to meet w/ Netanyahu,” Bush tweeted Sunday. “Why legitimize a cruel dictator of a repressive regime?”
On Saturday, Obama and Castro sat down together in the first formal meeting of the two countries’ leaders in a half-century, pledging to reach for the kind of peaceful relationship that has eluded their nations for generations.
“What we have both concluded is that we can disagree with a spirit of respect and civility,” Obama said. “And over time, it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries.”
Obama meets with Castro but refused to meet w/ @netanyahu. Why legitimize a cruel dictator of a repressive regime?
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) April 11, 2015
Castro, for his part, said he agreed with everything Obama had said — a stunning statement in and of itself for the Cuban leader. But he added the caveat that they had “agreed to disagree” at times. Castro said he had told the Americans that Cuba was willing to discuss issues such as human rights and freedom of the press, maintaining that “everything can be on the table.”
“We are disposed to talk about everything — with patience,” Castro said in Spanish. “Some things we will agree with, and others we won’t.”
Not since 1958 have a US and Cuban leader convened a substantial meeting; at the time, Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and Fulgencio Batista in charge in Cuba. But relations quickly entered into a deep freeze amid the Cold War, and the US spent decades trying to either isolate or actively overthrow the Cuban government.
Netanyahu and Obama have clashed repeatedly over the past six years, most recently and dramatically over the US-led nuclear talks with Iran.
At a press conference after the weekend meeting with Castro, Obama referenced the nuclear talks and his fight with the Israeli leader. “The prime minister of Israel is deeply opposed to [the nuclear deal]. He’s made that very clear,” Obama said. But asked several times to present an alternative that would make it “less likely for Iran to get a nuclear weapon — I’ve yet to obtain a good answer on that,” said the American leader.
AP contributed to this report.