The "mutual enmity" between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is intensifying as Netanyahu’s March 3 address to Congress about the negotiations with Iran looms large, The New York Times
A former Israeli national security adviser tells the Times that the relationship "has never been so terrible as it is today. Nobody even tries to use any diplomatic words."
Obama and his administration are indignant at Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to the Israeli leader without clearing or coordinating it with the White House, as well as Netanyahu’s acceptance, particularly when his visit takes place two weeks before Israel’s elections.
Netanyahu has maintained that he must put his country’s national security above political bickering and hurt feelings.
"Sometimes in the life of a nation you have to make hard choices," Dore Gold, a former international affairs adviser to the prime minister, told The Wall Street Journal.
"This is a very tense moment. But Iran is not some agreement about a [West Bank] settlement. This is a life-or-death question for Israel."
As proof that he is not trying to sway his own election or inject partisanship into Israel’s relationship with the United States, Netanyahu said that he turned down an invitation by congressional Democrats to meet with them separately. He also declined to meet privately with congressional Republicans.
The narrative being floated that Netanyahu’s visit is divisive and negatively impacting relations between the longtime allies is being created by others, an Israeli official told the Times.
"It was important to try to keep this as bipartisan as possible," said the official, who asked not to be named in keeping with diplomatic protocol, according to the Times. "That’s why he rejected both requests he had for meetings from Republicans and Democrats."
"From his perspective, it’s the last chance he has to voice the deep concerns he and many others in Israel have as we see this agreement with Iran taking shape."
Citing the proximity to Israel’s elections, Obama said he will not be meeting with Netanyahu.
An unnamed senior Obama officials told the Journal that Netanyahu is mistaken in assuming that meeting with Congress will affect the outcome of the negotiations with Tehran.
"Congress has a significant role to play but Congress doesn’t manage our day to day foreign policy, whether it’s our Iran negotiations, our efforts on Israel’s behalf around the world, our security cooperation," the official said.
"I mean, Congress isn’t negotiating the Iran agreement, for instance."
Last month, when Boehner extended the invitation to Netanyahu following the president’s State of the Union address, the House speaker said he wanted
to send a "clear message to the White House — and the world — about our commitment to Israel and our allies."
Instead of an ally, the Obama administration now views Netanyahu as "a serious threat" to striking a deal with Iran, according to the Journal, and is doing its best to undermine him in advance of his visit.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice told Charlie Rose this week
that Netanyahu’s visit "is destructive of the fabric of the relationship" between Israel and the U.S., and Secretary of State John Kerry said the prime minister "may have a judgment that just may not be correct here."
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