President Barack Obama’s aides have turned down a request by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to meet him next week, when Rivlin addressed the United Nations during its commemoration of the Holocaust next Tuesday .
“Over the past few days, there has been contact between the relevant parties in Israel and the US, discussing the possibility of a meeting between President Obama and President Rivlin during his visit to New York,” President Rivlin’s spokesman Jason Pearlman said Sunday night.
At this stage, it has been agreed not to hold a meeting during his visit, due to the schedule constraints of both leaders, and that a meeting would be scheduled at a later date.
When asked if the White House’s rejection of a visit was linked to its refusal to meet with visiting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu next month because of the upcoming Knesset elections, Pearlman asked The Jewish Press, “Have you ever had to organize a presidential visit?” He noted the complexities in adjusting schedules and making time for a meeting on short notice.
A cynic could say that President Obama does not want to give Israel any attention before the elections, even though the office of the Israeli president officially is not a political position.
Rivlin was a senior Likud Knesset leader and Knesset Speaker until he was elected last year to succeed Shimon Peres, who turned the office into a platform for his political views.
Rivlin is known to be far from a close friend of Netanyahu but he also has no taste for the increasingly leftist Labor-Livni party, the Likud’s main challenger.
A more positive view of the White House rejection would take Pearlman’s explanation as the truth, which it very well could be.
It will pay to look at Obama’s public schedule next week and see how many times he is on the golf course during Rivlin’s five-day visit.