During a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House, President Barack Obama addressed the decision not to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Washington, D.C. next month, which includes an address to a joint session of Congress.
Obama admitted there were key differences in Iran sanctions with he and Netanyahu and expressed an assurance he received from the Iranian supreme leader that it would be against the Islamic faith to procure nuclear arms. However, he said in this particular instance, it deals more with a policy of not meeting with leaders prior to an election.
“With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu, as I said before, I talk to him all the time. Our teams constantly coordinate,” Obama said. “We have a practice of not meeting with leader’s right before their elections, two weeks before their elections. As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election, she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House. And I suspect she wouldn’t have asked for one. So, you know, the — so, you know, this is just — some of this just has to do with how we do business. And I think it’s important for us to maintain these protocols because the U.S.-Israeli relationship is not about a particular party. This isn’t a relationship that is founded on affinity between the Labor Party and the Democrat Party, or Likud and the Republican Party. This is the U.S.-Israeli relationship. That extends beyond parties. It has to do with that unbreakable bond that we feel and our commitment to Israel’s security and the shared values that we have. And the way to preserve that is to make sure that it doesn’t get clouded with what could be perceived as partisan politics. Whether that’s accurate or not, that is a potential perception and that’s something that we have to guard against.”
“Now, I don’t want to be coy,” he continued. “The prime minister and I have a very real difference between Iran. Iran’s sanctions. I have been very clear, and Angela agrees with me and David Cameron and the others who are a member of the negotiations agree that it does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they’re about to be completed. And we should play that out, if in fact we can get a deal. Then we should embrace that. We can’t get a deal, then we’ll have to make a set of decisions. And as I’ve said to Congress, I’ll be the first to work with them to apply even stronger measures against Iran. But what’s the rush? Unless your view is that it’s not possible to get a deal with Iran. And it shouldn’t even be tested. And that I cannot agree with, because, as the president of the United States, I’m looking at what the options are if we don’t get a diplomatic resolution. And those options are narrow and they’re not attractive. And from the perspective of U.S. interests and I believe from the perspective of Israel’s interest, although i can’t speak for obviously the Israeli government, far better if we can get a diplomatic solution. There are real differences substantively. But that’s separate and apart from the whole issue of Mr. Netanyahu coming to Washington.”
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor