Netanyahu may meet US president during nuke summit in April.
By HERB KEINON
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has traveled to the US three times since becoming prime minister last spring, will return there twice in the next two months: once for the AIPAC policy conference in March, and again in April for US President Barack Obama’s global nuclear conference.Netanyahu is scheduled to go to Washington in the fourth week of March to take part in the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee event, an occasion Israeli prime ministers generally use to meet with the US president as well. This year, however, Obama will be traveling at the time – to Australia and Indonesia – and won’t be in town when Netanyahu arrives.Nevertheless, the two are expected to meet the following month at a global nuclear security conference Obama will host in Washington with some 40 heads of state to discuss preventing nuclear terrorism and securing vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.Netanyahu’s trip to the US in November to address the Jewish Federation’s of North America’s General Assembly was marred by tension over whether he would or would not get a meeting with Obama. In the end he was granted, at the last minute, a late night meeting that took place without any press availability.Efforts are under way to arrange meetings during Netanyahu’s visit in March with other top US officials – such as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – as well as with congressional leaders. Two weeks earlier he will meet with US Vice President Joe Biden, who will be paying the highest level visit by an administration official to Israel since Obama became president in January 2009.There is speculation that if Obama makes a trip to Israel – he has already traveled as president to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Cairo – it would be in the fall, before the US mid-term elections on November 2.Biden’s trip, which will obviously focus on both Iran and thediplomatic process, is also being viewed here as the Obamaadministration’s effort to send Israel a public show of support.Biden’s visit will be the last of a parade of high-ranking US officialswho have come to Israel over the past month, including Deputy Secretaryof State Jim Steinberg and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy MicheleFlournoy, here currently for the US-Israel strategic dialogue; DeputySecretary of State Jacob Lew; chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffAdm. Mike Mullen; National Security Adviser Jim Jones: the NSC’s DennisRoss: and CIA Director Leon Panetta.
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