The White House said Thursday that President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to Washington, DC, in March due to the visit’s close proximity to Israel’s national elections.
“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in statement.
On Thursday, Netanyahu announced his acceptance of an invitation by U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) to address a joint-session of Congress on March 3 regarding Israel’s position on Western negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Netanyahu’s address to Congress comes just two weeks before Israel’s national elections on March 17.
On his visit, Netanyahu will also speak at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Originally, Netanyahu planned to address Congress on Feb. 11, but Boehner adjusted the schedule to accommodate Netanyahu’s AIPAC appearance.
On Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu was a breach of protocol.
“The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there. … This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol,” said Earnest.