|When he was president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy told US President Obama, "I |
cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar." (Illustration by Ronald David Jackson)
Barack Obama will not meet Benjamin Netanyahu in March
Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan cited a "long-standing practice" of not meeting heads of state close to elections, which Israel will hold in mid-March.
Mr Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner in what is seen as a rebuke to Mr Obama's Iran policy.
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The US president has said he will veto attempts to add new sanctions on Iran.
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Mr Obama believes new measures will be harmful to negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme, talks Mr Netanyahu has opposed.
The Israeli prime minister has warned a deal between Iran and the US will pose a threat to Israel.
"A full blown crisis" was how Jeffrey Goldberg, one of America's leading Middle East commentators, described relations between the US and Israel last October, in an article that famously quoted a senior Obama administration official describing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a most unflattering, ornithological manner.
Since then, relations have deteriorated still further. The news this week that Netanyahu had accepted an invitation from the Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress - essentially to deliver a rebuttal to the president's pledge to veto any new congressional sanctions against Iran - blindsided the White House.
They complained that it was a "breach of protocol." In announcing that the prime minister will not get to meet the president, the Obama administration is invoking diplomatic protocol again.
But this will be widely interpreted as a snub, and make a difficult relationship even more acrimonious.