It’s the gift that keeps on not giving.
Months after Benjamin Netanyahu was reelected Israeli prime minister late last year, U.S. President Joe Biden has yet to invite the leader of one of Washington’s closest allies to the White House.
The Biden administration has twice extended an invitation to Israeli President Isaac Herzog to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and Herzog made his latest trip to Washington in mid-July. Some decried that invitation as a breach of protocol, as Israel’s presidency is a symbolic role, while the prime minister heads the government.
Then diplomatic protocol seesawed again, and again. Timed around Herzog’s visit, Biden and Netanyahu spoke on the phone, after which the Israeli leader announced that he had finally been invited to meet Biden. But rather than that being the end of the story, White House and State Department spokesmen have repeatedly declined to name the venue of the meeting, even when asked to confirm that it was to be the White House.
And then, last week, Israeli media reported that the Biden administration had confirmed it had not invited Netanyahu to the White House, although articles cited atmospheric quotes from the White House stating, as it had for weeks, that the meeting would occur somewhere in the United States, rather than flat-out denying a White House meeting.
As the Biden administration demurs in its public statements about the nature of the invitation, Zenger News sought answers from declared 2024 candidates about how soon, if at all, into their presidencies they would invite Netanyahu—or another Israeli prime minister—to the White House, and what they made of Biden’s handling of a potential Oval Office invite to the Israeli premier. Three campaigns responded.
“The centerpiece of my Middle East policy in year one will be to consummate ‘Abraham Accords 2.0’ by adding Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Indonesia to the pact,” Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican candidate for president, told Zenger News. (He told Zenger News something similar last month.)
“The Palestine question shouldn’t hold Israel or the rest of the Middle East hostage to economic prosperity and security,” added Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur. “With strengthened economic and diplomatic ties, Israel will be on a path to be strong on its own feet by the end of this decade. That will be good both for the U.S. and for Israel.”
China is filling “the diplomatic void created by an absentee American commander in chief, who risks sleepwalking us into a global nuclear conflict by the day,” he added. “I will immediately course-correct starting in January 2025 through diplomacy that advances U.S. interests while avoiding war.”
“President Biden’s continued insults to Prime Minister Netanyahu further underscores the bankruptcy of the administration’s policy toward Israel,” Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., told Zenger News.
“We can differ on policies without demeaning important allies. You don’t treat your friends like that. If you have a disagreement, you talk,” Kennedy added. “The United States must engage Israel for the security of the entire region. We cannot and must not ignore Israel’s prime minister.”
One of Nikki Haley’s first calls as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations—bucking protocol, she has said—was to her Israeli counterpart Danny Danon. “Nikki Haley will make sure that one of the first calls she makes as president will be to Israel,” Ken Farnaso, the former South Carolina governor’s press secretary, told Zenger News.
“It’s shameful that Biden has buckled under global pressure and has worsened our relationship with Israel,” added Farnaso. “Unlike Joe Biden, President Haley will always have Israel’s back and work towards deepening ties with our ally.”
Haley addressed the lack of White House invitation for Netanyahu during a speech she delivered last month at the Christians United for Israel conference. “Joe Biden continues to show us what a weak president looks like. He called on Israel’s prime minister to, and I quote, ‘walk away’ from his reforms. He then said the prime minister ‘cannot continue down this road.’ And just today, Biden called Netanyahu to complain. He won’t let it go,” Haley said at the time.
“Joe Biden is risking our friendship with Israel—just because he doesn’t like Benjamin Netanyahu,” she added in the speech. “For the record, it took Joe Biden far too long to invite Netanyahu to the United States. He finally made the offer today. But as recently as last week, he refused.”
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate