White House says Netanyahu 'departing from protocol' with US visit

"The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he's traveling there," press secretary Josh Earnest tells reporters.

January 21, 2015 19:56
1 minute read.
Obama Netanyahu

Obama and Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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WASHINGTON -- The White House expressed displeasure with the handling of an upcoming visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States on Wednesday, after the Israeli premier received an invitation by House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress next month.

Boehner told reporters he did not inform the White House of his plans to invite Netanyahu to the US until this morning. Neither did the prime minister's office.

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Aboard Air Force One en route to Idaho, US President Barack Obama's press secretary said that typical protocol for the visit of a national figurehead had been breached somewhere along the way.

"The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he's traveling there," press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with Obama aboard Air Force One.

"This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol," Earnest said.

The White House declined to comment on whether the president will receive Netanyahu during his visit.

Boehner's invitation comes one day after Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address, reissuing a veto threat on new sanctions legislation against Iran should diplomacy fail over its nuclear work.

Netanyahu supports continuing pressure on Iran through sanctions legislation throughout the negotiations.

Earnest acknowledged in the gaggle that Republicans likely seek Netanyahu's help in pressuring Democrats on the bill.

"We’ll have some conversations with the Israeli government," White House Josh Earnest said aboard Air Force One, en route to Boise, Idaho. "We’ll allow the Israeli government the opportunity to preview what the prime minister intends to say."

Netanyahu's last visit to the US in October included some unwelcome exchanges, now routine in his relationship with Obama. At that time, Earnest questioned the Israeli government's commitment to the pursuit of peace in light of its settlement activities less than an hour after he met with the president in the Oval Office.

The prime minister's office has not yet confirmed whether Netanyahu will accept Boehner's invitation.

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