White House Criticizes Netanyahu's Planned Trip to U.S., Calling It 'Departure From Protocol'

'Such invitations are usually made leader to leader,' spokesman says, referring to Speaker Boehner's invitation, issued two months before the Israeli election is to take place.

AP

The White House criticized on Wednesday the manner in which House Speaker John Boehner invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in a daily briefing that the invite was "a departure from protocol," adding that "such invitations are usually made leader to leader."

Boehner said earlier on Wednesday that he did not consult with the White House about inviting Netanyahu to speak, nor update the administration before he sent the invite or released a statement on the matter.

Spokesman Earnest said that the White House has yet to speak with the Prime Minister's Office about the possibility a U.S. visit and a meeting with President Barack Obama. "We will reserve judgment on the trip until we hear from Israel officially," he said.

Earnest added that according to diplomatic protocol, a foreign nation's leader should contact the White House before his arrival in the U.S. The White House, Earnest said, was not aware of the invitation sent to Netanyahu until Wednesday morning, shortly after Boehner released a statement on the matter.

The White House's criticism of the invitation was also echoed in the State Department's daily briefing. Spokeswomen Jen Psaki said that there was no mention of Netanyahu's intention of visiting the U.S. in the ongoing talks between the U.S. and Israel. Traditionally, she said, it isn't Boehner who informs the administration about the planned visit of a foreign leader. 

Challenging Obama on Iran

The invitation by Republican leadership seems to be an attempt to intervene for Netanyhau in the Israeli elections on the one hand, and to challenge President Obama on the Iranian issue, which is a highly contested political issue in the U.S. these days.

This would be Netanyahu's third address to Congress.

A large group of congressmen and senators mostly from the Republican Party are trying to promote legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran, while the world powers are negotiating with Iran in an attempt to reach a settlement. President Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday that if legislation like this is passes by Congress he would veto it.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said the invitation was from the leadership of both parties, not just the GOP.