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Israel's Netanyahu still not 'on the schedule' to visit Biden: White House

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to visit the White House since his election in November.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly Cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on March 19, 2023.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not scheduled to visit Washington, the White House said on Monday, a day after President Joe Biden urged the Israeli leader to seek a compromise on his planned judicial overhaul

"There's nothing on the schedule," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters when asked if President Joe Biden had extended an invite to Netanyahu. 

Netanyahu’s conservative Likud Party and its political allies won a comfortable 64-seat Knesset majority in the Nov. 1 elections, the country’s fifth in four years.  

After his election for a sixth term as Israel’s prime minister, there was heavy speculation that Netanyahu would visit Washington in early 2023, as is customary for new Israeli premiers. A Reuters analysis found most new Israeli leaders had made official visits to Washington by this point in their tenure. 

Netanyahu faces mounting US pressure for a proposed judicial overhaul that would allow the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court decisions, which critics say would undermine Israel’s delicate system of checks and balances. The proposed changes have sparked 11 straight weeks of massive street protests in Israel

During their call on Sunday, Biden “offered support for efforts underway to forge a compromise on proposed judicial reforms consistent with those core principles,” the White House said in a statement. According to the prime minister’s office, Netanyahu told Biden that “Israel was, and will remain, a strong and vibrant democracy.” 

The election of Israel’s most right-wing government in history has complicated Israel’s relations with the current Democratic administration as it seeks to de-escalate tensions between Israel and Palestinians. 

Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Sunday that there is “no such thing as Palestinians.” Smotrich, who heads the pro-settler far-right Religious Zionism party, earlier called for Israel to “wipe out” the Palestinian village of Huwara in the West Bank. 

Asked about Smotrich’s latest inflammatory comment, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said, “We of course would take issue with that kind of description or that kind of language being used.” 

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