Israeli leader rejects meeting with Dems

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE won’t meet with Senate Democrats, when he visits Congress next month because it would “compound the misperception of partisanship” around his visit, CNN reported Wednesday.

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"Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic Senators, I believe that doing so at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit,” he said in a letter CNN obtained to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who extended the invitation.

"I can assure you my sole intention in accepting it was to voice Israel's grave concerns about a potential nuclear agreement with Iran that could threaten the survival of my country," he added.

Durbin, a member of Democratic leadership, said he was “disappointed” in Netanyahu’s decision.

"We offered the prime minister an opportunity to balance the politically divisive invitation from Speaker Boehner with a private meeting with Democrats who are committed to keeping the bipartisan support of Israel strong," Durbin said in a statement. "His refusal to meet is disappointing to those of us who have stood by Israel for decades."

Feinstein and Durbin had invited Netanyahu to meet with Democratic senators but also took the opportunity to say that Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to invite the prime minister without consulting with the White House risked turning support for Israel into a partisan issue.

Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to Congress has polarized Washington, since it was announced earlier this year. He is expected to criticize a deal being negotiated between the U.S. and its allies and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program.

Many Democratic lawmakers have said that they will not attend the speech to protest Boehner's decision to invite a foreign leader without notifying the president. Vice President Biden will also miss the speech because he will be in Central America.

— Updated at 9:55 a.m.