White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Sunday that the US relationship with Israel remains strong despite the tension around Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's upcoming visit to Washington, scheduled for early March.
"I'm not going to get hyperbolic or emotional about this," McDonough said on NBC's Meet The Press. "Our relationship with Israel is many faceted, deep and abiding. It's focused on a shared series of threats, but also, on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to inform overwhelming.”
Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress after being invited by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Neither Boehner nor Israel notified the White House of the invitation before making it public – and the White House announced that neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would be meeting Netanyahu during that visit.
McDonough avoided a direct answer when he was asked if he agrees with former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, that Netanyahu should not make a political visit to the United States at a date so close to the Israeli election.
“I’ll leave that’s between Michael and Ambassador – or Prime Minister Netanyahu,” McDonough said.
Oren is a candidate in the Kulanu party in the Israeli election.
McDonough was also asked about a quote from an unnamed senior American official, in the far left Haaretz newspaper on Friday, who allegedly said: “There are things you simply don’t do,” speaking of Netanyahu. “He spat in our face publicly, and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”
"I can guarantee that it's not me, not the president, and not what we believe," McDonough said. “We think that, as a general matter, we, United States, has stayed out of internal politics in the countries of our closest allies. That’s true whether it’s Great Britain, where we just recently had a visit from Prime Minister [David] Cameron a full four months before their election, or in Israel.”