Obama, Netanyahu Mum after Tuesday's Talks

Published: March 24th 2010
in News >> World

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at AIPAC conference.

After high tensions in Israeli/American relations, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received a warm public reception from US Congress members Tuesday in Washington.


Leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi assured Netanyahu that even though the US asked for a cease on settlement development in primarily Arab East Jerusalem, Congress continues to stand by Israel. Republican Leader John Boehner echoed Pelosi’s statement claiming the United States has no stronger ally than Israel. Netanyahu met separately with members of congress and the Senate, finding support on both sides of the aisle, receiving a particularly affectionate response from Republicans.


The Israeli PM conferred with President Barack Obama twice Tuesday in the Oval Office for a total of two hours. Contrary to custom, reporters and photographers were not invited to see them shake hands or document the session. Obama and Netanyahu consulted for 90 minutes in the Oval Office, a half hour longer than scheduled. After the meeting the President retired to the residence while the Prime Minister stayed behind to consult with his staff in the Roosevelt Room. Later that evening, Obama was summoned back to the Oval Office to meet with Netanyahu for another 30 minutes. The White House did not release immediate statement providing a summary of the two leader’s discussion.


The tone of the meetings was apparently chilly due to Israel’s announcement of plans to build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem two weeks prior. In a speech to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Netanyahu rejected the Obama administration’s plea that construction be halted on the new habitation units for Jewish families in the disputed area of Jerusalem claimed by Palestinians as their capital. Netanyahu has stressed that Israel wants to continue building new settlements in Jerusalem warning the US that if it supports the demands of Palestinians, the political peace process will be delayed for another year. 


President Obama asked the Israeli PM for confidence building steps toward the Palestinians in order to launch indirect talks but differences continue to remain between Israel and the US.  White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs told the media a day after the meeting that US officials are seeking clarification of Israel’s plan to for further expansion of Jewish housing in East Jerusalem.


As reported by the Associated Press, the White House stands by its long-held contention that building in the largely Arab-section of the disputed holy city is destructive to the Mideast peace process.


Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with other US officials in Washington this week including George Mitchell, special US envoy to the Middle East.

Related articles: (Netanyahu, Obama, Congress, Pelosi, East Jerusalem, Peace Process)

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