Israel's ambassador to the U.S. denied responsibility Friday for a diplomatic row that has erupted over an upcoming visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, saying that Republican leaders who issued his invitation should have informed the White House.
In an email interview with the Atlantic Monthly magazine, Ambassador Ron Dermer suggested the House Speaker John Boehner, who issued the invitation to Netanyahu, should have informed the White House. “It was ... made clear to me that it was the speaker’s responsibility and normal protocol for the Speaker’s office to notify the administration of the invitation.”
He added that he felt “it would be inappropriate for me to raise the issue with the administration, including in my meeting with the secretary of state, until the speaker notified them,” he wrote.
The row over the incident has laid bare the depths to which relations between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations have fallen.
The White House signaled that it was blindsided by the invitation, which many saw as an attempt by Israel to advance its cause with the U.S. government by cutting out the White House to work with congress.
“I really do think it represents a strategic calculation that from Israel’s point of view, this president and this White House have essentially been written off,” Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former senior State Department official told the New York Times.
“Particularly since the midterm elections, they have made the calculation that to the extent possible, they will use Congress as the channel to conduct their relationship,” he added.
Obama has said that he will not meet with Netanyahu during his visit, because it is against protocol for the President to meet with the leaders of foreign countries close to the time of elections in their countries -- which Netanyahu faces on March 17. The move is seen as snub however, as the policy has been ignored in the past.
Netanyahu's visit coincides with Republican-led efforts in Congress to pass legislation tightening sanctions on Iran, as the U.S. and other Western powers conduct negotiations with the country over its nuclear program. Obama has threatened to veto such legislation, arguing new sanctions could undercut the talks, AFP reported.