President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to Washington to address a joint session of Congress in March.
"As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” White House national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement Thursday. “Accordingly, the president will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the U.S. Congress."
The White House on Wednesday called House Speaker John Boehner's unilateral invitation a breach of diplomatic protocol. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Boehner showed "hubris" for doing so without consulting her.
Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that he had invited Nethanyahu to speak about the threat from Iran on the morning after State of the Union, during which Obama had reiterated his warning to Congress not to pass new sanctions against Iran as the U.S. attempts to broker a nuclear deal.
“The president has been clear about his opposition to Congress passing new legislation on Iran that could undermine our negotiations and divide the international community," Meehan said. "The president has had many conversations with the prime minister on this matter, and I am sure they will continue to be in contact on this and other important matters."