US officials said Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has effectively 'spat in Barack Obama's face' by bypassing the White House to arrange a speech before Congress in March.
"We thought we'd seen everything," an unnamed senior US official told Haaretz newspaper. "But Bibi [Netanyahu] managed to surprise even us.
"There are things you simply don't do. He's spat in our face publicly and that's no way to behave," the official said adding that there will be a retaliation. "Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price."
House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address a joint session of the Republican-dominated Congress on March, 3 two weeks before Israel's general election.
The address has been organised without the knowledge of the White House. Furthermore Netanyahu is expected to make the case for congress to vote additional sanctions against Iran, a move opposed by Obama as harmful to the ongoing nuclear negotiations.
The White House initially reacted with a snub, saying Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will not meet Netanyahu during his stay in Washington.
Presidential spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said: "The president will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the US Congress."
This latest spat has plunged an already rocky relationship between the two leaders to a new low. The two head of states have never made a secret of their mutual dislike.