Israeli official: Ask Biden administration why PM hasn’t been invited to White House

Senior Israeli official briefing reporters in Rome says there are ‘a number of reasons’ for Netanyahu not yet being hosted by the president, refuses to elaborate

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Then-US vice president Joe Biden waves as he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk to give statements to the press in Jerusalem, Tuesday, March 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Debbie Hill, Pool)
Then-US vice president Joe Biden waves as he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk to give statements to the press in Jerusalem, Tuesday, March 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Debbie Hill, Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to receive an invite to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House for “a number of reasons,” according to a senior Israeli official who briefed reporters during the premier’s visit to Rome.

The official did not elaborate as to what those reasons are. However, he said that the question as to why Netanyahu hasn’t received an invite would be one better suited for the White House to answer.

A US official and a senior Middle Eastern diplomat told The Times of Israel last month that plans by the US and the UAE to host Netanyahu have been placed on the back burner, with the two sources explaining that the respective governments are frustrated with the new government’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians and are waiting to see what unfolds on the ground during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins later this month. The Ramadan period has historically added another layer of tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

Axios reported that the UAE decision to rescind Netanyahu’s January invitation was also due to concern that the Israeli premier would use the visit to make public statements against Iran on Emirati soil.

Also during Friday’s briefing, the senior Israeli official blamed the deal reached by Saudi Arabia and Iran to re-establish diplomatic relations on the previous Israeli government and the Biden administration’s combined weakness.

“There was a feeling of American and Israeli weakness, so Saudi Arabia turned to other channels,” said the senior Israeli official.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu, with Noemi Di Segni (left) and Rome’s chief rabbi Riccardo Di Segni (right), during the prime minister’s visit to Rome, March 10, 2023 (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)

The official claimed that the talks between Riyadh and Tehran began in 2021 during the tenure of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid’s short-lived unity government when the Biden administration was more committed to re-entering the Iran nuclear deal. As a result, Saudi Arabia turned to China, which served as a counterweight to the US and helped broker the agreement announced Friday.

The remarks represented a clear shot by the Prime Minister’s Office at US President Joe Biden who entered office pledging to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal but has gradually moved away from that effort over the past year amid Tehran’s military cooperation with Russia and the ongoing protests in the Islamic Republic against the regime there.

Dismissing claims that the current government was responsible, the senior Israeli official said members of the previous government should ask themselves why the initial contacts began during their tenure. (The Iranian and Saudi announcements on Friday did not specify when their contacts began.)

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