Obama reported to invite Netanyahu for White House meeting

Prime Minister’s Office denies receiving offer for a sit-down between two less-than-friendly leaders after nuclear talks deadline

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meets with US president Barack Obama, at the White House, Washington DC on October 01, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meets with US president Barack Obama, at the White House, Washington DC on October 01, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

An Israeli newspaper said US President Barack Obama has invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting in the White House next month.

Netanyahu would travel to Washington in mid-July, approximately two weeks after the June 30 deadline for the Iran nuclear deal, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday, citing US officials.

The meeting would likely be the latest in a series of tense sessions between the two leaders who have a famously frosty relationship, and the first since Netanyahu’s reelection in March amid signals of disapproval from the White House.

However, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office denied receiving an invitation, according to Reuters. There was also no immediate confirmation from the White House.

Obama told Jewish leaders in April that he would not meet with Netanyahu in person before the negotiations between the P5+1 — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, plus Germany — and Iran are complete.

Those talks are slated to end on June 30, but officials on both sides have indicated it is likely they will go into overtime.

In April, Obama told Jewish leaders he imagined a face-to-face meeting with the Israeli leader before an Iran deal is finalized would only end with Netanyahu “publicly venting his complaints about the president’s policies,” on Iran, the New York Times reported.

In an April phone call following the conclusion of a framework nuclear accord, Netanyahu told Obama that “a deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel.”

The prime minister added, “This deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy, and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond.”

The Israeli leader has continued to lobby against the deal. His national security adviser Yossi Cohen is expected in Washington this week to air Israel’s concerns with his US counterpart.

If the Obama-Netanyahu meeting does take place in mid-July, it will occur before Congress officially meets to approve the Iran deal.

In early March, Netanyahu gave a controversial speech to Congress in which he criticized the deal. Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu during the trip, saying he did not want to be seen as meddling in Israeli politics two weeks before national elections.

The visit highlighted the tense relationship between Netanyahu and Obama, who have also been at loggerheads over a lack of progress in peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Before and during the Israeli election, the Obama administration denounced Netanyahu’s rhetoric, which was deemed offensive to Arab voters, and his apparent dismissal of a two-state solution, despite the prime minister walking back the statement following his victory.

Despite personal animosity, both leaders have continued to play up the strong bond between Israel and the US.

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