Photo: AP
President Obama with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: AP

Source says Obama, Netanyahu call was 'tough', as Boehner announces visit

White House source says Obama considering nixing direct contact with Netanyahu, opting to put Kerry in charge of ties; senior Israeli official says defense ties expected to remain 'intensive.'

President Barack Obama's phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "tough", Israeli sources said days after Netanyahu won Israel's election on the backdrop of unprecedented tensions between Jerusalem and the White House.



Meanwhile, Republican John Boehner, the speaker of the US Congress and an ardent backer of Netanyahu, announced he will visit Israel at the end of this month, diplomatic sources said on Friday.


Photo: AFP (Photo: AFP)
Photo: AFP


The visit will follow Netanyahu's surprise election victory this week and his speech to Congress earlier this month on Boehner's invitation, an event that aggravated the White House and drew sharp criticism. The date of his visit with a Congressional delegation has not been fixed but it will happen before the end of March, diplomats said.

Photo: AFP (Netanyahu speaking before Congress (Photo: AFP))
Photo: AFP


Officials in the prime minister's office and at the US embassy in Israel had no immediate comment.


On Thursday Obama called Netanyahu to congratulate him on his reelection, while stressing US commitment to a two-state solution in Israel after Netanyahu attempted to backtrack from hard-line statements he made during his election campaign against the establishment of a Palestinian state.


"As long as Israel was committed to a two state solution we could protect it (at the UN)," a White House official told Ynet's print publication.


According to the source, the White House is contemplating lowering its ties with Israel and putting Kerry as the sole liaison between the two states, as opposed to the open line Netanyahu now enjoys with Obama.

"The president is pragmatic, if he were think there was some gain to be made from talking directly with Netanyahu he would do so, but he just prefers not to waste his time," the source said.


In his election campaign, Netanyahu further upset the White House by disavowing an earlier commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


He also said Israel's Arab minority was being mobilized by left-wing groups to vote against him, an accusation that drew charges of racism from opponents and which White House spokesman Josh Earnest called "divisive".


Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Since his win, Netanyahu has tried to row back on the rhetoric, saying on US television on Thursday that he supported a two-state solution when the conditions were right, and he received a congratulatory phone call from Obama.

But the White House has said it will "reassess" its options on US-Israeli ties given Netanyahu's remarks on Palestinian statehood, raising the prospect of a tense period in the coming months between the two leader.


Nonetheless, Israeli defense ministry's strategic affairs director Amos Gilad told Israel public radio, hours after the frosty Thursday night phone conversation between the two leaders, that the "picture is clear - security relations are extremely strong."


"Defense relations continue full strength. Everything concerning the security dialogue is deep, broad and intensive," Gilad said. "These ties will continue and are continuing."


The president said the US would "reassess" its policies in the light of the Israeli leader's campaign remarks.


"I don't know what they mean by that expression," Gilad said in response. "The picture is not yet clear. We have to see what they mean."


Boehner angered President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats by inviting Netanyahu to address Congress just two weeks before the Israeli election. Arrangements were made without the White House being kept informed, and Netanyahu used the speech to criticize the Obama administration's efforts to strike a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.


Itamar Eichner, Reuters and AFP contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 03.20.15, 13:05
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