No Bibi-Obama meeting in New York; White House says scheduling, not snub

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The White House has cited a scheduling conflict for declining an Israeli request for a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Obama when both leaders travel to New York later this month.

The two leaders are “simply not in the city at the same time,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told journalists Tuesday.

“The President arrives in New York for the UN on Monday, September 24th and departs on Tuesday, September 25th,” Vietor explained. “The Prime Minister doesn’t arrive in New York until later in the week.”

“But the President and PM are in frequent contact and the PM will meet with other senior officials, including Secretary Clinton, during his visit,” Vietor added.

An Israeli official told Israeli daily Haaretz, which first reported that there would be no Obama-Netanyahu meeting, that Netanyahu’s office had indicated he would be willing to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with Obama, but that request had also been turned down, Barak Ravid reported.

However, the White House said Tuesday that is false.

“Contrary to previous press reports, there was never any request for a meeting between the Prime Minister and President in Washington, nor was this request ever denied,” the NSC’s Vietor said.

The White House does not anticipate that Obama will hold any bilateral meetings with foreign leaders in New York, Vietor told Al-Monitor.

Apparently the US informed several countries in recent days that Obama would not be holding bilaterals with foreign leaders in New York, but Israeli officials were the only ones to go to the press to raise an outcry, a US official told Al-Monitor.

A former Israeli official also cautioned that it’s possible the Israeli side is hyping the matter to portray Obama as chilly towards the Israeli leader during the US presidential election campaign.

However, the White House did not seem to go out of its way to entirely dispel the impression that it has grown weary of having to deal with endless whispering capaigns, tirades, misinformation, and meltdowns from Jerusalem.

Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu unleashed a harsh denunciation of world leaders for urging Israeli restraint on military action on Iran. His broadside followed remarks by Clinton Sunday that  “we’re not setting deadlines” for Iran diplomacy.

“Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said at a press conference in Jerusalem Tuesday.

Last month, at a closed-door meeting with a US lawmaker and US ambassador, Netanyahu unleashed the most “agitated …very sharp” exchange that the lawmaker, House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers, said he has ever seen by a foreign leader.

Netanyahu is currently scheduled to arrive in the US on Sept. 27th and to address the UN General Assembly Sept. 28th.

(Photo: Reuters)

Diplomats confer ahead of Ashton-Jalili call

Diplomats from the 5+1 conferred Tuesday ahead of an expected conversation next week between the top international and Iran negotiators, diplomatic sources told Al-Monitor.

Political directors from the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China held a conference call Tuesday with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, to determine exactly what she should say when she speaks with Iran’s Saeed Jalili. An exact date for the Ashton-Jalili call has not been finalized. US negotiator Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, is in Washington this week, the State Department said, after traveling earlier this month to China, Russia and London for consultations with her P5+1 counterparts on Iran and Syria.

Iran’s hosting of the non-aligned movement summit in Tehran this week has consumed its diplomatic attention for the moment and pushed back the Ashton-Jalili conversation a few days. The extra time is just as well given the P5+1 Iran diplomacy having to contend with the potential wrench thrown into the negotiating calendar presented by recent Israeli saber-rattling on Iran. House Intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Tuesday he thinks any Israel strike on Iran will come after the US presidential election, November 6.  Israeli official sources have offered the same suggestion to Al-Monitor in interviews this month. Israeli officials indicated that a decision has not yet been taken. Continue reading