White House cool on Netanyahu Congress speech

AFP , Wednesday 21 Jan 2015

The White House on Wednesday gave an icy response to news that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to address Congress next month, suggesting it would be a departure from protocol.

"We haven't heard from the Israelis directly about the trip at all," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

"The typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he is travelling there. That is certainly how President Obama's trips are planned."

"So this particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol."

The White House added it would "reserve judgment" on any possible meeting between Obama and Netanyahu for now.

The Obama administration, Earnest said, would want to hear about plans for the trip and Netanyahu's message "before we have a decision to make about any meeting."

While the United States and Israel remain close allies, personal relations between Barack Obama and Netanyahu are reportedly frosty.

The two have clashed over settlement building in the West Bank and how to tackle Iran's nuclear program.

The Israeli premier had been invited to address a joint meeting of the Congress by Obama's Republican opponents.

House Speaker John Boehner said Netanyahu "is a great friend of our country, and this invitation carries with it our unwavering commitment to the security and well-being of his people."


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