Jerusalem: The rocky relationship between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a fresh hit Tuesday over a declined White House invitation hours before Vice President Joe Biden`s arrival.
Netanyahu`s decision not to accept an invitation for talks with Obama in Washington later this month "surprised" the White House, which first learned of it through news reports. The Israeli premier`s office defended the decision by saying Netanyahu did not want to interfere in US presidential primary elections currently taking place.
Obama and Netanyahu have had a rocky personal relationship, worsened by the Israeli premier`s forceful opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, including in a speech to the US Congress.
But the two have sought to set aside their disagreements in recent months and work out a new 10-year defence aid package for Israel as well as demonstrate that the ties between the two traditional allies remain strong.
Biden is due to arrive in Tel Aviv later on Tuesday and hold talks with Netanyahu on Wednesday. He is also scheduled to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
A previous visit by Biden in 2010 was marred by the announcement of a major Israeli settlement project in annexed east Jerusalem.
The announcement drew a public scolding from Biden and it soured relations with Washington for months.
His visit this time comes with Obama having acknowledged that there will be no comprehensive agreement between Israelis and Palestinians before he leaves office in January 2017.
The White House has said that Biden will not be pursuing any major new peace initiatives during his visit, even though a wave of violence since October has killed more than 200 people.
Talks are expected to include discussions on a new, 10-year defence aid package for Israel, currently worth some $3.1 billion annually in addition to spending on projects such as missile defence, illustrating the importance of Israel`s relationship with the United States.