The Israeli government on Wednesday accused the White House of lying by denying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested to meet US President Barack Obama later this month in the US.
The accusation will likely serve to further escalate diplomatic tensions between the two countries, which have ramped up in recent days.
“We requested a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York and also suggested that the prime minister could come to Washington,” for a meeting, a senior government official in Jerusalem told the German DPA news agency on Wednesday.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor had said earlier that no such request was made or rejected.
On Tuesday evening, after reports surfaced claiming Obama refused to meet Netanyahu during his short US trip later this month — reportedly due to a scheduling issue — it seemed like bilateral relations were headed toward a serious crisis.
But later that night, the president called Netanyahu and the two leaders spoke for about an hour, seemingly calming the situation.
According to a statement the White House published after the conversation, Netanyahu and Obama agreed to continue holding “close consultations” regarding the Iranian nuclear program in the future.
Both Jerusalem and Washington fear that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons and agree the regime should be prevented from reaching that goal. The two governments differ regarding the means to achieve this, though. While Netanyahu seems to favor a preemptive military strike some time soon, Obama wants to first exhaust diplomacy and sanctions aimed at convincing Iran to give up on its nuclear ambitions.
Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu launched an unprecedentedly bitter attack on the US administration, saying that countries that refused to set deadlines for Iran to give up its nuclear program have no right to tell Israel to hold back on taking preemptive military action to thwart the regime’s nuclear ambitions.
“The world tells Israel to wait because there is still time. And I ask: Wait for what? Until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said.
His statement constituted a harsh rebuttal of comments made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said on Sunday that the US will currently not set deadlines or give ultimatums regarding Tehran’s refusal to curb its nuclear program.