The White House says U.S. President Barack Obama will not meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli leader visits Washington in early March to speak to a joint session of Congress.
A National Security Council spokeswoman said Thursday that as a "matter of long-standing practice and principle," the president does not meet with “heads of state or candidates” in close proximity to their elections.
Netanyahu is set to be in the U.S. capital March 3, two weeks ahead of his re-election bid in Israel.
The White House statement came a day after Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, blindsided the Obama administration by inviting Netanyahu without first consulting the White House.
Boehner said he had invited the Israeli leader to address Congress to talk about the "grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life.”
The White House has called the invitation a breach of normal protocol.
Numerous Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats, are seeking to pass legislation tightening U.S. sanctions against Tehran that would be aimed at forcing Iran to abandon any effort to build a nuclear arsenal. Netanyahu has voiced fears that the U.S. and five other world powers will make too many concessions to Tehran in their current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
Obama opposes further sanctions against Tehran while the talks are ongoing. He told lawmakers in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that if Congress approves the new restrictions, he will veto them.
The next round of nuclear talks is scheduled for February.
In a statement, Netanyahu said he was "honored to accept the invitation" and that would use the speech "to thank President Barack Obama, Congress and the American people for their support of Israel.”
It would be Netanyahu’s third address to the U.S. Congress.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters.