President Barack Obama told Jewish leaders in a meeting last week that he will not invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the White House before the June deadline for a final agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, because he believes the meeting would end with Netanyahu publicly criticizing Obama’s approach, the New York Times reported.
At the same time, Obama’s schedule shows that he has recently invited other Middle Eastern leaders to the White House where they have discussed the Iran framework agreement.
President Barack Obama listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
According to the New York Times account, the Jewish leaders asked if the president would invite Netanyahu anytime soon to meet with him at the White House:
Not yet, Mr. Obama responded.
He told the group that a face-to-face meeting at the White House would probably end with Mr. Netanyahu publicly venting his complaints about the president’s policies, particularly his efforts to forge a nuclear agreement with Iran, according to people familiar with the private meeting who would provide details about it only on the condition of anonymity.
Obama told those gathered that he would speak with Netanyahu over the phone, with a face-to-face meeting possible only after the June 30 target date for a final deal with Iran.
While the president said he would not invite Netanyahu before June 30, he has invited the leaders of the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council – including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar – to the White House on May 13 and to a Camp David retreat the following day.
Obama has met with other Middle Eastern leaders over the past two months at the White House, including the emir of Qatar on Feb. 24, the president of Afghanistan on March 24, and the Iraqi prime minister on April 14.
On Monday, Obama met with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince at the White House where among the issues discussed was the Iran deal.
The president refused to meet Netanyahu when he was in Washington in March to speak to Congress about the emerging deal, citing the proximity to Israeli elections.
According to those who attended the White House meeting with Jewish leaders, Obama tried to reassure them that he cares for Israel and the Jewish people.
“He tried to explain he understands Jewish trauma, history, the Jewish feeling of being alone in a bad neighborhood,” a participant told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The New York Times noted that after months of tension between Obama and Netanyahu over the Iran deal, the U.S. administration was trying to tone down the public criticism of Israel.
One example of that was plans to send Vice President Joe Biden to speak Thursday at an Israeli Independence Day gathering hosted by the Israeli embassy.