US President Barack Obama (R) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House October 1, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House after he forms a new government, a US official reiterated to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, amid reports suggesting the visit may be timed around the completion of nuclear talks with Iran.
The pledge to invite Netanyahu was first made on April 6 by Ben Rhodes, the president's deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, in an interview with Israeli television. "Absolutely," Rhodes said. "We’d expect that once there’s an Israeli government formed, that there will certainly be occasion for the two of them to meet in Washington going forward.”
But on Thursday morning, the New York Times
reported that President Barack Obama, in one of two meetings with Jewish community leaders on April 13, said he would prefer waiting to host Netanyahu until after the deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement passes on June 30
Netanyahu would simply take the opportunity in front of the press, inside the Oval Office, to skewer the nuclear deal as he has in the past, the president contended, according to the report.
Speaking with a participant in one of the meetings on Thursday night, the Post
independently verified the Times
' account. Earlier in the day, the White House would not clarify that its invitation was forthcoming before June 30, when world powers hope to sign the deal in Vienna.
The two world leaders have an infamous personal relationship, but continue to speak regularly by phone on issues of great concern to the security of both Israel and the United States: Iran, unrest throughout the Arab world and the stability of the Palestinian Authority.
Those calls will continue, Rhodes said. The Obama administration has repeatedly asserted that the importance of the US-Israel relationship supersedes personal, and partisan, politics.
Netanyahu last visited Washington in March, when he addressed a joint meeting of Congress on the "very, very bad" pending deal with Iran. Netanyahu believes the working agreement will guarantee Iran as a nuclear-threshold state, and criticizes world powers for allowing Iran to retain much of its nuclear infrastructure. During that visit, no officials from the Obama administration met with the Israeli premier.
The Obama administration, alongside the governments of France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany, hail the deal as an opportunity to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back Iran's nuclear work for a finite period. Several elements of its inspections regime will last "essentially forever," US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz told CNBC on Thursday.
For at least a decade, "we will have a very comfortable ability to detect any military activity related to the nuclear program and we would have adequate time to respond," Moniz told the business news network.