President Barack Obama will not meet Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits in March to speak to Congress, the White House has announced.
Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan cited a “long-standing practice” of not meeting heads of state close to elections, which Israel will hold in mid-March.
Benjamin Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner in what is seen as a rebuke to Barack Obama’s Iran policy.
President Barack Obama has said he will veto attempts to add new sanctions on Iran.
He believes new measures will be harmful to negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, talks Benjamin Netanyahu has opposed.
On January 22, Benjamin Netanyahu formally accepted the invitation from senior Republican John Boehner, saying it will give him the chance to “thank President Barack Obama, Congress and the American people for their support of Israel”.
Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to discuss Iran, as well as Islamic militant groups, in his address to Congress on March 3.
“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.
She added President Barack Obama had “been clear about his opposition” about new sanctions legislation.
“The president has had many conversations with the prime minister on this matter, and I am sure they will continue to be in contact.”
Nancy Pelosi, the House’s top Democrat, said the visit, two weeks before Israel’s election and in the midst of “delicate” Iran talks, is not “appropriate and helpful”.
Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting a tough election against the Labor Party’s Yitzhak Herzog, who has focused on the prime minister’s cooler relations with Barack Obama.