Scott McConnell has reported how the Obama Administration appears to have developed a backbone in its dealings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Media accounts reveal that due to “scheduling conflicts” the White House turned down a Netanyahu request for a meeting with the president when the Israeli Prime Minister will be in the United States on a visit to address the United Nations General Assembly. The Administration has half-heartedly denied that such a request was ever received or rejected in an attempt to defuse the issue, but the nature of the relationship with Israel has inevitably become part of the election campaign.
Naturally, Mitt Romney has inserted himself into the conversation, saying “I stand with our friends in Israel, I stand with our allies. I can’t ever imagine, if the prime minister of Israel asked to meet with me, I can’t ever imagine saying no.”
Congress also appears to be convinced that the president is, indeed, snubbing the Israeli head of government. The following letter was sent to President Obama at noon on Thursday. As of late yesterday morning it was signed by 73 congressmen. The language is very strong, one might even say slightly threatening. The letter is only one component of the considerable pressure that will be directed against Obama to reverse his decision:
Dear Mr. President,
We are writing to urge you in the strongest terms to accept Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to meet with you during his visit to the United States this month. We are astounded by your refusal to grant this request to one of our closest allies at such a critical time for that region. The rejection of this request represents disturbing treatment of a vital partner and illustrates a lack of regard for the indispensable relationship between the United States and Israel and the current dynamics in the region which are essential to our national security.
The United States and Israel have nurtured a unique and vital relationship since their independence on May 14, 1948. The United States must engage very closely with Israel at every level – now more than ever. Your unwillingness or “lack of time in your schedule” to provide critical national leadership and to maintain vital high level communication channels between our countries in the face of potential military engagement is extraordinarily irresponsible and sends the wrong signal to the international community and our closest ally. Their geographical location within the Middle East makes them a key player to the United States and regional stability. In this time of uncertainty and advancing nuclearization of Iran, Israel deserves a strong and loyal ally.
Whether the excuse is a scheduling conflict or lack of communication, there is no excuse for ignoring a world leader. We urge you to immediately accept the request to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu.