WH: No Advance Notice of Cancelled DC Trip

The White House pushed back on Israeli reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu notified them that he is cancelling a planned trip to the U.S., insisting they were caught off guard as the media reported the news.

“There is no reason to consider this a snub. I think the question is simply a matter of scheduling, and the Israelis indicated that they have made plans to their schedule. We would have preferred to have heard that in person rather than hearing about it in media reports,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the daily press briefing.

Earnest said the incident will not have any impact on Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel and his meeting with Netanyahu on Wednesday, as well as on the ability to strengthen the national security cooperation between the U.S. and Israel. “There’s no bickering here. I am not demanding, for example, that somehow they should reschedule the meeting as soon as possible,” he said. “I’m merely suggesting that if they weren’t able to make the meeting, they should have just told us before they told a reporter. I think it’s just good manners. But, again, there is no offense taken. It’s not going to have any impact on our ability to try to negotiate this extension of the MOU.”

The prime minister’s office insisted that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer informed the White house that Netanyahu was likely to cancel the trip, which included an appearance at the AIPAC Policy Conference, because of the heated U.S. presidential election.

“Last Friday, during a meeting at the White House, Ambassador Dermer expressed the prime minister’s appreciation for the president’s willingness to meet the PM if he came to Washington to attend AIPAC’s Policy Conference,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement early Tuesday morning. “However, the ambassador also informed the White House that there is a good chance that the prime minister would not be coming to Washington and that a final decision would be taken on Monday after he had met with the prime minister.”

“On Monday, news reports suggested that [Netanyahu] would not be traveling to Washington and erroneously stated that the President was unwilling to meet with [him],” the statement read. “The [prime minister’s office] immediately corrected the erroneous news reports and officially informed the administration that the PM would not be coming to Washington.”

But Earnest maintained that the White House was not informed about the decision to decline the offer to meet on March 18. “I don’t think even those [Israeli] officials are suggesting that the Israeli Ambassador had informed the White House that Prime Minister Netanyahu would not be coming to the White House on March 18. Our expectation was that he would do that, and we learned that he was not going to do that based on media reports,” said Earnest.

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