U.S. President Barack Obama phoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday night, after reports that the White House declined the Israeli prime minister's request to meet with Obama during a UN conference in New York at the end of the month.
The two spoke for an hour about the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and the close cooperation between the U.S. and Israel on security issues, including that of Tehran, according to the White House. The discussion was part of the two leaders’ ongoing consultations.
Obama and Netanyahu reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward.
The White House also said that “contrary to reports in the press, there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied.”
The statement appeared to be an attempt at damage control, after Israeli media reported Tuesday that the White House had declined Netanyahu's request to meet Obama during a UN conference in New York at the end of September.
Initially, National Security Council's spokesman Tommy Vietor offered technical problems as an explanation to why the meeting would not take place: "The President arrives in New York for the UN on Monday, September 24th and departs on Tuesday, September 25th. The Prime Minister doesn’t arrive in New York until later in the week. They’re simply not in the city at the same time. But the President and PM are in frequent contact and the PM will meet with other senior officials, including Secretary Clinton, during his visit.”
Later on, he said there was no request to hold the meeting in Washington on a different day, and when asked by Haaretz about the possibility of meeting at the White House, he answered that he does not have the president's “full schedule" for that week.
In the latest White House statement, there was no mention of a possible meeting.
Last week, Democrats voted to change their convention platform to add a mention of God and declare that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The move came after criticism from Republicans, the pro-Israel lobby, and several prominent democrats. Since then, the Obama campaign has been confronted with this awkward outcome of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, as Republicans continue to exploit it in their favor.
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