In a surprising move, the White House said that President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during Netanyahu’s visit to the United States later this month.
It’s sounding a bit like a case of “he said, he said”, too. An Israeli official told Reuters that their request for Netanyahu and Obama to meet face-to-face was flatly turned down. The White House, however, says that it was a matter of the two leaders’ schedules not lining up: Netanyahu and Obama will be attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York on different days.
Some speculate that this is fallout from tension between Obama and Netanyahu on how to deal with Iran. Israel wants the United States to set “red lines” for how far Iran’s nuclear program can go before they attempt to shut it down, possibly through military action. Israel also accuses the U.S. of being too tough on it, and not tough enough on Iran.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said there would be a little over a year for the U.S. to act to stop Iran from producing a nuclear weapon if it decided to do so.
The move threatens to erode support for Obama among Jewish voters. He received 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008, but a Gallup poll taken in June shows that he now has 64% of that vote, versus 29% for Mitt Romney. It’s also earned him criticism from Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who released a statement that read in part:
“It is puzzling that the president can’t make time to see the head of state of one of America’s closest allies in the world. If these reports are true, the White House’s decision sends a troubling signal to our ally Israel about America’s commitment at this dangerous and challenging time.”
– Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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