Tags: Netanyahu | furor | Obama | Mideast

White House Says Puzzled by Netanyahu Furor

Tuesday, 30 Mar 2010 08:57 PM


WASHINGTON — The White House expressed puzzlement Tuesday at widely-held perceptions that President Barack Obama delivered a calculated snub to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week.

As a row over Israeli settlement building raged, Netanyahu held late-night talks at the White House a week ago, but did not get a press appearance with Obama and the administration failed to even release an official photo.

He returned home to a torrent of criticism in the Israeli media over his treatment, with some commentators arguing he had been humiliated in a test of wills with Obama over sharp differences on Middle East peace diplomacy.

"I'm puzzled by the notion that somehow it's a bad deal to get two hours with the president almost entirely alone," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

"That doesn't seem like a lot of punishment to me."

On Sunday, another senior White House official, David Axelrod, had insisted that no snub was intended to Netanyahu, but added that friends such as Israel and the United States sometimes needed to talk "bluntly" to one another.

Obama met Netanyahu for two separate meetings at the White House last week lasting two hours.

The next day, the Israeli leader met US envoy George Mitchell and national security staff from the two allies spent hours in negotiations.

But Netanyahu left Washington with no announcement on an agreement to end a rare row with the United States and move towards US-mediated "proximity" talks with the Palestinians.

The row erupted three weeks ago when officials in Israel announced plans to build 1,600 Jewish apartments in annexed east Jerusalem, embarrassing Vice President Joe Biden when he was in the country.

It has since revealed philosophical and political differences between Washington and Israel towards peace moves, reflected in a row over settlement building that the United States says is undermining its role as a mediator.

A week after Netanyahu's visit to Washington positions only appear to be hardening.

The Israeli leader on Sunday accused the Palestinians of blocking US peace efforts.

The Palestinians had earlier reiterated their refusal to hold even indirect talks without a complete Jewish construction freeze and following a flare-up of violence in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.




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2010-57-30
Tuesday, 30 Mar 2010 08:57 PM
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