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White House Calls Boehner Invitation to Netanyahu a Breach of Diplomatic Protocol

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits next to Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (R) during an award ceremony honoring those in the fight against human trafficking, at the Presidential compound Jerusalem on December 2, 2014. Netanyahu today fired centrist ministers Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid from his coalition government and said he'd act to dissolve the parliament ahead of new elections. (Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayahu to address Congress was a breach of diplomatic protocol.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves after a bilateral meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, October 1, 2014. A skeptical Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday directly warned President Barack Obama not to accept any Iran deal that would allow Tehran to become a 'threshold nuclear power.' Netanyahu and Obama renewed their often prickly relationship in the Oval Office, meeting for the first time since their governments swapped some of the most harsh rhetoric in years over the Gaza crisis. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves after a bilateral meeting at the White House, Oct. 1, 2014. (AFP Photo/Jim WATSON)

“The typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there,” Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to the pool report. “That certainly is how President Obama’s trips are planned when he travels overseas. This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol.”

Asked if Obama would meet with Netanyahu next month if the Israeli leader arrives, Earnest said only, “We haven’t heard from the Israelis directly about the trip.”

Earnest said the White House has not heard from the Israelis whether Netanyahu will accept the Feb. 11 invitation.

“We’re going to reserve judgment on that until we’ve had an opportunity to speak to the Israelis about what their plans are for the trip and what he plans to say,”

He said the White House wasn’t aware of the invitation until Boehner (R-Ohio) announced it Wednesday, but called the speaker’s action “interesting.” He also answered, "no," when asked if the White House was annoyed.

Boehner’s invitation comes as the Obama administration is trying to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, the president repeated his threat to veto any additional sanctions Congress might pass on Iran. He says additional sanctions could give Iran an excuse to back out of negotiations.

“In this time of challenge, I am asking the prime minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life,” Boehner said in a statement. “Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again.”

The visit would be Netanyahus’s third appearance before a joint session of Congress, and the second since Beohner became speaker.

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