Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a few pool reporters in the White House Oval Office after meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday — consistent with Netanyahu’s past visits to the White House, but not consistent with the visits of several other world leaders who held full-blown joint press conferences with Obama in front of the entire White House press corps.
The White House schedule for Monday does not specify whether the two leaders – who have sometimes been at odds – will take questions from the foreign and domestic press. Considering Israel’s status as a major ally of the United States particularly in Middle Eastern affairs, the newly-announced U.S. dialogue with Iran and the international move to dismantle the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, it would be curious if they don’t take questions.
But the lack of a big Q&A session is nothing new when it comes to Netanyahu and his visits to the United States.
On May 20, 2011 the two had an awkward meeting in the Oval Office that came shortly after Obama called for Israel to return to its 1967 borders. They didn’t take questions from the press.
Netanyahu visited the White House on March 5, 2012 where neither took questions from the press after making their statements in the Oval Office.
In contrast, leaders of the governments of Britain, Canada, China, Mexico and Turkey had more elaborate joint press conferences with Obama, generally in the East Room, the Rose Garden or the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House. These press conferences were all covered by a large group of American reporters and foreign reporters. But the custom is that the leaders take two questions from U.S. press and two questions from foreign press.
In March, Obama and Netanyahu did have a larger press conference, but that was in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu is not the only world leader not to have a joint press conference with Obama. Most leaders of smaller countries have not had a joint press conference. Last week, Obama had a bilateral meeting with India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the leader of a key trade partner, a strategic ally in the war on terror and a large country but the two did not have a joint press conference.