TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not likely to meet with President Barack Obama on his upcoming trip to the United States later this month.
Netanyahu is due to arrive in New York on September 20 for the United Nations General Assembly.
Netanyahu’s office has so far declined to confirm that a meeting will not happen, but meetings of this stature are usually announced more than a week in advance and nothing has yet been scheduled.
It would likely have been the last opportunity for the leaders to meet in person before Obama’s term ends in January.
It has been suggested that the disinclination to meet may be partly due to the Israeli prime minister’s eagerness to travel to Moscow for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas while U.S.-led peace efforts have been rebuffed.
After Obama famously snubbed Netanyahu by refusing to host him in the Oval Office in 2015, a year later the Israeli prime minister, in an unprecedented move, turned down an offer by Obama to meet in the White House.
“We were looking forward to hosting the bilateral meeting, and we were surprised to first learn via media reports that the prime minister, rather than accept our invitation, opted to cancel his visit,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said following Netanyahu’s own snub.
The last time the two met was in November 2015 in Washington, defying expectations with what the Times of Israel termed “a generally friendly chat.”
The two leaders have had a frosty relationship as well as maintaining sharply contrasting views on policy – Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his disapproval of the U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran while Obama’s opposition to Israel’s settlement enterprise has been a concern for him throughout his presidency.
This past weekend, the administration critiqued Netanyahu on this issue by slamming Netanyahu’s arguments that the only side that could rightfully be accused of “ethnic cleansing” was the Palestinians who refuse to have Jews live in a future Palestinian state.
The U.S. administration called Netanyahu’s phrasing “inappropriate and unhelpful.”
In a video posted to the prime minister’s Facebook page, Netanyahu took issue with the idea – repeated by the Obama administration – that the presence of Jews in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace.
“I am perplexed by this notion,” stated Netanyahu, “because no one would suggest that the two million Arabs living inside Israel are an obstacle to peace. Because they aren’t.”
He then continued by asking viewers if they would find it acceptable to have “a territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks.”
Referring only to “enlightened nations,” but in an apparent jab at the U.S., Netanyahu said it’s “outrageous that the world doesn’t find it outrageous.”
“Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?” he asked.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said in response the administration is “engaging in direct conversations with the Israeli government” about the video.
“We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” Trudeau said.
She added that Israel’s continued expansion of settlements raises “real questions about Israel’s long-term intentions in the West Bank.”
At the end of 2015, The New Yorker quoted American officials as saying that members of the administration view Netanyahu as “myopic, entitled, untrustworthy, routinely disrespectful toward the president, and focused solely on short-term political tactics to keep his right-wing constituency in line.”