The White House has informed the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that President Obama will not be able to meet with Netanyahu later this month when the Israeli leader travels to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
According to an Israeli official who spoke with Reuters, Netanyahu’s office reached out to the White House for a meeting between the two leaders, but “the White House has got back to us and said it appears a meeting is not possible. It said that the president’s schedule will not permit that.”
An additional report from the Jerusalem Post states that Netanyahu offered to travel to Washington D.C. during his trip to the U.S., because President Obama will not be in New York during the prime minister’s time there, but the White House “didn’t think that would be possible” to meet.
This will mark the first time Obama and Netanyahu will not meet during a trip to the U.S. by the Israeli leader, since the president took office.
The news on Tuesday comes as officials in the United States and Israel engage in a public debate over setting deadlines for stopping Iran’s nuclear advances with force. In Israel, where proximity to Iran is a major concern and military capabilities are believed to be less than that of the Americans, the government is in a hurry to stop Iran’s nuclear work. While President Obama has stated he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, the U.S. stopped short of bending to Israeli requests that “red lines” be drawn for Iran as they continue to develop a more advanced nuclear program.
“We’re not setting deadlines,” Secretary of State Clinton told Bloomberg Radio earlier this week. “We’re watching very carefully about what they do, because it’s always been more about their actions and their words.”
Netanyahu responded sharply on Tuesday morning, telling “the international community” – which seemed to be a thinly veiled reference to the United States – that Israel should not be told what to do regarding the Iranian threat, if red lines are not going to be given.
“The world tells Israel to wait, and that there is still time,” he said. “And I say wait for what? Wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put deadlines in front of Iran do not have the moral right to put a red light before Israel.”
Following Netanayhu’s comments, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CBS that if Iran made a decision to complete a nuclear weapon, American officials would have “a little more than a year” to stop it from happening.
“It’s roughly about a year right now. A little more than a year. And so … we think we will have the opportunity once we know that they’ve made that decision, take the action necessary to stop (Iran),” Panetta said.
On Tuesday night, Panetta’s Israeli counterpart said that despite the differences between Washington and Jerusalem, the two countries maintain a strong relationship, with a common set of values.
“Do not forget that the U.S. is Israel’s main ally. We have intimate relations in the intelligence field, and the U.S. is Israel’s most important supporter in the security field,” Barak said. “The foundation of this relationship is a long standing friendship and shared values between Israel and the American people.”