Israeli ministers banned from US meetings as Netanyahu spurned: reports
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly prevented his cabinet ministers from travelling to the United States - and ordered them to boycott meetings with American officials - until he is personally granted an audience with US president Joe Biden.
Netanyahu feels spurned by the Biden administration, according to Israeli broadcaster Channel 12, with still no invite to the White House 11 weeks after assuming the premiership last November.
Only two out of 13 previous Israeli prime ministers heading a new Israeli government have waited longer with even former PM Naftali Bennett invited to the White House sooner.
"As long as I don't visit there, nobody does," Netanyahu was quoted as telling his ministers.
Extremist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich - who recently proclaimed that Israel should "wipe out" the Palestinian town of Hawara - was ordered not to meet with US officials during a visit to Washington this week.
Neither the US government nor the Israeli administration has responded officially to the reports.
Biden, a Democrat who describes himself as a Zionist and has known Netanyahu personally for decades, says Washington's support for Israel is "ironclad".
But the US administration, which appears to have tacitly accepted settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, has been made uncomfortable by the strong upsurge in Israeli violence in the West Bank.
At least 68 Palestinians, including 11 children have been killed by Israel since the beginning of the year.
Netanyahu’s new extremist right-wing government has drawn rare criticism from US officials, including Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.
"The United States (remains) firmly opposed to any acts that could trigger more insecurity, including settlement expansion and inflammatory rhetoric," said Austin during his state visit to Israel earlier in March.
"We're especially disturbed by violence by settlers against Palestinians," Austin told reporters.
Violence has worsened in the occupied West Bank since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office in December overseeing a coalition that includes extreme-right parties.