President Obama will not meet with Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister is in the United States later this month for the U.N. General Assembly, because the two leaders’ schedules make a meeting impossible, the White House said today.
“The President arrives in New York for the UN on Monday, September 24th and departs on Tuesday, September 25th. The Prime Minister doesn’t arrive in New York until later in the week. They’re simply not in the city at the same time. But the President and PM are in frequent contact and the PM will meet with other senior officials, including Secretary Clinton, during his visit,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a written statement.
The announcement comes amid tension between the United States and Israel over Iran’s nuclear program and follows Netanyahu’s declaration earlier this week that those who refuse to put “red lines” before Iran, have no moral right to give Israel a “red light.”
The Obama administration has opposed issuing ultimatums, backing diplomatic negotiations and sanctions as the best approach to deter Iran from its nuclear ambitions.
An Israeli official told ABC News that Netanyahu’s office requested a meeting with Obama but was told that because of the president’s tight schedule it wouldn’t be possible. The official admitted that with just a day and a half open, the window wasn’t very big, although the official said the Israelis did offer to go to Washington if a meeting in New York was not possible.
The meeting was requested when the trip was made official more than a week ago and was declined “in the last few days,” according to the Israeli official.
This will be the first time Netanyahu has visited the United States as prime minister and not met with Obama.
UPDATE: President Obama and Netanyahu spoke for an hour on the phone Tuesday evening.
“The two leaders discussed the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, and our close cooperation on Iran and other security issues. President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward,” according to the White House.
The Obama administration also denied reports that Netanyahu offered to come to Washington to meet with the president. “Contrary to reports in the press, there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied,” the White House said in a written statement.