The Times of London reports that during their one-on-one talks on Tuesday, President Obama walked out on Netanyahu after failing to obtain a written promise of concessions on building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The President invited him to remain at the White House, confer with his advisers, and “let me know if there is anything new," a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister told the Times.
Sources report that Obama was livid when Israel announced that it would construct new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country in an attempt to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Times also reports that Netanyahu failed to mollify Obama with attempts to show that he had no control over the timing of the announcement.
The apparent failure of the Washington trip leaves Netanyahu between Barack and a hard place. Conservative parties in the PM's center-right coalition, as well as the PM himself, regard Jerusalem as the undivided capitol of Israel and press for continued construction of Jewish neighborhoods, but Netanyahu also needs US backing of its efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a move Israel sees as an existential threat.
The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz said of the visit, "The Prime Minister leaves America disgraced, isolated and altogether weaker than when he came."
Nonetheless, Israeli officials maintain that Obama and Netanyahu did reach some understanding on the settlements issue. The Jerusalem Post reports today that Netanyahu is convening his inner cabinet to discuss Obama's demands and that government insiders predict that senior ministers will back understandings reached in Washington.
Written by Sandy Smith