WASHINGTON (AP) – House Speaker John Boehner is headed to Israel at a time when relations between the White House and newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have reached a new low.
Boehner, who announced his travel plans on Friday, angered the Obama administration when he invited Netanyahu to deliver a speech to Congress without consulting the White House. In the speech, Netanyahu blasted the sensitive nuclear talks the U.S. and its partners are having with Iran, which has threatened to destroy Israel.
On the surface, Boehner’s trip appears to be a jab at the White House, but a congressional aide insisted that it was planned before this week’s Israeli election and before Netanyahu’s address to Congress. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to disclose details of the trip.
The Ohio Republican will visit Israel during the two-week congressional recess that begins March 30. His office said he will discuss bilateral issues Israeli officials and U.S.-Israeli relations, which took another hit this week when Netanyahu, on the eve of his re-election, said there could be no Palestinian state while regional violence and chaos persist – conditions that could rule out progress on the issue for many years.
Netanyahu on Thursday backtracked from the hard-line statement against the establishment of a Palestinian state in the face of a diplomatic backlash. The comments, aimed at appealing to his nationalist voter base, angered the Obama administration, which views a two-state solution as a top foreign policy priority.
Netanyahu said in a TV interview after his re-election that if conditions improve, he remains committed to Palestinian statehood and the two-state vision first spelled out in a landmark 2009 speech.
In a phone call Thursday, President Barack Obama congratulated Netanyahu on his re-election, but also told him that the U.S. is reassessing its approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace in light of Netanyahu’s pre-election remark.