| 18 April 2024, Thursday |

No White House visit for Israel’s Netanyahu as US concern rises

Benjamin Netanyahu has been Israel’s prime minister for eleven weeks; this is his third term, and it appears that the United States is not pleased with the right-wing policies of his government.

According to a Reuters analysis of official visits dating back to the late 1970s, the majority of new Israeli presidents had visited the United States or had a meeting with the president by this time in their premierships. Only two of the 13 previous leaders of a new administration that waited longer.

The White House declined to confirm Netanyahu has yet to be invited. A State Department spokesperson referred Reuters to the Israeli government for information about the prime minister’s travel plans.

Israel’s embassy in Washington declined to comment.

“The message they clearly want to send is: If you pursue objectionable policies, there’s no entitlement to the Oval Office sit-down,” said David Makovsky, a former senior adviser to the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Since the start of the year, demonstrators have filled Israel’s streets to protest the government’s plan to curb the power of the Supreme Court, which critics say removes a check on the governing coalition.

Amid escalating West Bank violence, the right-wing government’s action authorizing settler outposts and inflammatory comments from a member of Netanyahu’s cabinet with responsibilities over Jewish settlements have drawn criticism from U.S. officials, including from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a visit to Israel last week.

U.S.-Israeli ties remain close. The United States has long been Israel’s main benefactor, sending more than $3 billion each year in military assistance.

President Joe Biden has known Netanyahu for decades, the two have spoken by phone, and senior officials in both countries have made visits since Netanyahu’s government was formed in December, despite Israel’s spiraling political crisis.

But the lack of a White House visit underscores both the desire of the Biden administration to see different policies in Israel and what critics say is a reluctance to take more forceful steps.

  • Reuters