An outrageous new low in US-Israeli relations:
The White House has rejected a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet President Barack Obama in the United States this month, an Israeli official said on Tuesday, after a row erupted between the allies over Iran's nuclear programme. An Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Netanyahu's aides had asked for a meeting when he visits the United Nations this month, and "the White House has got back to us and said it appears a meeting is not possible. It said that the president's schedule will not permit that".
Yes, our president has much higher priorities to attend to -- like not attending intelligence briefings, avoiding his jobs council, and jawboning about celebrities and football with swing-state FM disc jockeys. Doesn't myopic Bibi realize there's an election to be won? And why on earth would the Israeli Prime Minister be seeking an urgent meeting with the leader of the free world right about now? Perhaps Netanyahu's concerns might be fueled by, say, this minor development:
The U.N. atomic agency has received new and significant intelligence over the past month that Iran has moved further toward the ability to build a nuclear weapon, diplomats tell The Associated Press. They say the intelligence shows that Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models that it ran sometime within the past three years. The diplomats say the information comes from Israel, the United States and at least two other Western countries and concludes that the work was done sometime within the past three years. The time-frame is significant because if the International Atomic Energy Agency decides that the intelligence is credible, it would strengthen its concerns that Iran has continued weapons work into the recent past — and may be continuing to do so.
A hostile regime whose leaders openly and repeatedly threaten the very existence of Israel now appears to have made significant clandestine progress toward illegal nuclear armament, as Washington and the "international community" move goalposts and twiddle their thumbs. Why wouldn't Israel's leaders be anxious? It's also conceivable that Netanyahu wants to discuss the unsettling breaking developments in a certain neighboring country. Sure, Egypt's new leadership has paid lip service to the long-standing peace agreement, but who's really running the show in Cairo? An angry mob of Islamic extremists tore down an American flag at our embassy in Cairo yesterday and replaced it with an Al Qaeda banner -- all because they were supposedly "provoked" by a film critical of Islam. The Obama State Department shamefully apologized for the incident (!), criticizing those whose "abuse" of free speech "hurt the religious beliefs" of Muslims. On the anniversary of 9/11. In this case, the dastardly exercisers of free expression happen to be Egyptian Christians who fled their nation of origin. I can't imagine why. Meanwhile, violent protests outside of our diplomatic outpost in Benghazi turned deadly on Tuesday:
A US official has been killed and others wounded in Libya as an armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam attacked the US consulate in Benghazi. Libya's Supreme Security Committee spokesman said: "One American staff member has died and a number have been injured in the clashes." But Abdel Monem al Hurr said he did not know the exact number of injured. Armed gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening, clashing with Libyan security forces before the latter withdrew as they came under heavy fire. Reporters on the scene said they could see looters raiding the compound, walking off with desks, chairs and washing machines.
Thankfully, the rest of our Libyan diplomatic corps is reportedly "safe and sound." I wonder if we'll issue a groveling apology to the Libyan hordes, too. Mitt Romney is aghast (via the campaign):
"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."
With the Middle East set ablaze by the blind, anti-civilization fury of rioting Islamists, and Iran quickening its seemingly inexorable march toward nukes, our dearest ally in the region has asked for a face-to-face meeting with the President of the United States -- and has been rebuffed. Astonishing. The White House is desperately "clarifying" that Obama isn't snubbing Bibi here, but how else should their original "sorry, too busy" statement be interpreted? Allahpundit -- whose work has been essential reading over the last 24 hours -- offers this succinct and distressing summary of how the icy relationship between Netanyahu and Obama moved into deep freeze territory over recent weeks:
First came the shouting match between Netanyahu and the U.S. ambassador. Then Martin Dempsey told an audience in London that he didn’t want to be “complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran. The upcoming joint military exercise between the U.S. and Israel was then scaled back, and this murky report about the U.S. contacting Iran to distance itself from an Israeli strike appeared. Then came the floor fiasco at the Democratic convention over the platform’s Jerusalem language. Now this.
And to think, Obama's planning to make his foreign policy prowess a cornerstone of his closing argument to voters. His administration is already tying itself in knots to distance itself from the Cairo apology. Does the Obama administration think saying unpleasant things about a religion constitutes an "abuse" of free speech rights, or not?
UPDATE II - Obama will somehow manage to squeeze a Letterman appearance into his jam-packed schedule next week. Maybe he can perform 'The Top Ten Reasons to decline to meet with a stalwart ally" while he's schmoozing with Dave.
UPDATE III - Our system's been down for hours, and much has happened. Stay tuned for upcoming posts.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography