After inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress earlier this month, US House Speaker John Boehner was scheduled to arrive for a visit in Israel at the end of March, Haaretz reported Friday.
According to three anonymous Israeli officials, Boehner was expected to arrive in Israel on March 31 at the head of a delegation of Republican congressmen. The officials told the paper that Boehner’s visit was finalized during Netanyahu’s visit to the US earlier this month.
The senior Republican lawmaker’s visit is set to coincide with the deadline of nuclear talks between world powers and Iran. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that talks have stalled over the issue of sanctions relief, with Iran demanding an immediate lifting of economic restrictions — a move the US and European powers refuse to concede.
There was no immediate official comment from the House speaker’s office about the report.
On Thursday, Boehner defended his invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress earlier this month and mocked the Obama administration’s chilly reaction to the Israeli prime minister’s election victory.
Asked by a reporter about the administration’s lukewarm response to Netanyahu’s win, Boehner, a Republican, said, “Lukewarm?” and laughed heartily.
Since Netanyahu’s election triumph this week, the White House has said it will have to reconsider its approach considering the prime minister’s hard veer to the right in the campaign.
Netanyahu used his appearance before Congress, which was arranged by Republicans, to criticize an effort by the US to strike a deal with Iran aimed at curbing that nation’s nuclear program.
Boehner said he wanted to congratulate “my friend, Benjamin Netanyahu, on his party’s victory this week.”
He said Netanyahu recognizes “the grave threats that we face from radical Islam and from Iran.” He added that the prime minister “was in the perfect position to help describe that threat to the American people and, for that matter, to the rest of the world.”
AP contributed to this report.