President Barack Obama delivered a message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose controversial visit to Capitol Hill will come two weeks before Israel’s upcoming elections: Angela Merkel never would have done this.
Obama and Merkel, the German chancellor, fielded questions from reporters Monday about new sanctions on Iran – which Congress is pushing, but Obama says should be delayed while a deal to end the country’s nuclear program is negotiated – during Merkel’s visit to Washington.
Netanyahu is expected to oppose Obama’s stance and push for a tougher approach to Iran during his speech. Obama, meanwhile, has refused to meet with Netanyahu during his visit.
“I talk to him all the time. Our teams constantly coordinate,” Obama said Monday. “We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections.”
Then, casting Netanyahu’s visit as inappropriate, he said Merkel wouldn’t make a similar one.
“As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election, she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House, and I suspect she wouldn’t have asked for one,” Obama said.
The comment about Merkel recalled a controversy in 2008, when Obama, by then the clear Democratic presidential candidate who was looking to burnish his foreign policy credentials, made a trip to Germany.
He’d initially sought to deliver a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate. But Merkel was angry about the prospect of the Brandenburg Gate – an important symbol during Germany’s partitioned era and its emergence from it – being used for campaign purposes. So Obama’s speech was delivered in front of the nearby Victory Column.