The administration is facing pressure to confront Iran’s use of proxy militant groups across the Middle East.
New airstrikes in Iraq and a freeze on troop withdrawals in Afghanistan are at odds with his long-term approach.
The president agreed to keep about 9,800 troops in the country through the end of this year.
The dinner is an effort to “get everyone on the same page,” said an organizer.
The president is expected to keep as many as 5,000 more U.S. troops there over the next year.
The White House, rejecting the reversal, suggested that it might shift U.S. policy toward Israel.
“The politics of it got tough and people got scared by the rhetoric around it,” the president said. “Once that set in, the path of least resistance was to leave it open even though it is not who we are as a country.“
Josh Earnest said the administration was “deeply concerned” about the Israeli leader’s pre-election rhetoric seeking “to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens.“
The president has been accused of not being engaged enough on problems at Veterans Affairs.
Phoenix visit was an opportunity to offer condolences to Carl and Marsha Mueller, whose daughter was killed last month, the White House said.