ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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PM has no plans yet to meet Obama when in US in September

Netanyahu ‘happy to work with whoever gets elected’ in US

PM tells reporters he’s being ‘very careful’ not to get involved in presidential campaign

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

US President Barack Obama speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum on March 22, 2013, in Jerusalem, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images/JTA)
US President Barack Obama speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum on March 22, 2013, in Jerusalem, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images/JTA)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being “very careful” not to get involved in the US presidential campaign, he told reporters on Sunday.

Addressing Israeli diplomatic correspondents in the cabinet room at the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu said he would be “happy to work with whoever gets elected” in November.

The Israeli prime minister and US President Barack Obama have had an often friction-filled relationship in recent years. The US administration has repeatedly criticized Netanyahu’s settlement-building policies, and the two governments are at odds over how best to advance peace efforts with the Palestinians. Additionally, Netanyahu has bitterly criticized the US-led agreement last year on curbing Iran’s rogue nuclear program. In March 2015, he spoke in Congress against the Iran deal, and Obama refused to meet with him on that trip.

A major supporter of Netanyahu, casino magnate and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, is a key Republican donor, and some Democratic critics of Netanyahu have alleged that the Israeli prime minister gave an unduly warm welcome to Republican candidate Mitt Romney when Romney visited Israel in the summer of 2012 — an assertion rejected by the prime minister’s aides, who note that then-candidate Obama received similar warm treatment when he visited in 2008. A tentatively planned visit to Israel by Donald Trump earlier this year was called off by the candidate.

US billionaire Donald Trump advises Israelis to vote for Benjamin Netanyahu in a video released on Tuesday (YouTube screen capture)
US billionaire Donald Trump advises Israelis to vote for Benjamin Netanyahu in a 2013 campaign video (YouTube screen capture)

Netanyahu will be visiting the US in September, to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He told reporters on Sunday that there are no plans as yet for him to meet with Obama in the course of that visit.

Washington is Israel’s most important ally, Netanyahu said. “We need to continue cultivating our relationship with the US. I meet many US lawmakers who visit. It never happens that a senator or congressman or governor comes here and we don’t meet them. That takes up a not-insignificant portion of my time, but it’s important.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2010, in Washington, DC -- the last time the two sides held direct, top-level talks (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2010, in Washington, DC — the last time the two sides held direct, top-level talks (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

At a panel at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week, Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, who is close to Netanyahu, said Israel considers bipartisan support from the US to be vital. “Everyone should understand bipartisan support is a strategic value,” said Dermer. “You can’t fly a plane with one wing.”

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