President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone for an hour late Tuesday. The call occurred after an Israeli official said the White House rejected Netanyahu’s request for a meeting with Obama during the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward,” the White House said after the phone call in a statement, trying to downplay tensions with Netanyahu.
Earlier on Tuesday, after reports surfaced in the Israeli press that the White House told the Israeli government that Obama did not have time to meet Netanyahu, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama would leave New York on September 25th and Netanyahu would arrive after.
“They’re simply not in the city at the same time,” Vietor said in an email to Bloomberg News before adding that Obama and Netanyahu were “in frequent contact.”
Obama and Netanyahu have had a chilly relationship, but the need for them to meet became more urgent after United States and Israel sparred about whether to draw a red line before Iran as Iran gets closer to developing a nuclear weapon.
On Sunday Netanyahu said Iran “doesn’t see a red line from the international community” in an interview on Canadian television.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded on Monday and said negotiations were “by far the best approach” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Clinton reiterated that the United States would not be setting deadlines.
“We’re watching very carefully about what they do, because it’s always been more about their actions than their words,” Clinton said.
In response, Netanyahu, at a press conference on Tuesday, said “those in the international community who refuse to place red lines before Iran have no moral right to place a red line before Israel.”