The United States and Israel are going through a rough patch right now, in case you hadn’t heard. The relationship between the stalwart allies became strained two weeks ago when Israel announced, while Joe Biden was in the country to restart peace negotiations, that it would be building new Jewish apartments in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope to make their capital when they eventually attain statehood. This was widely viewed as a slap in the face to Biden and the United States, and led to some of the sharpest rebukes of the Israeli government by American officials in memory. Oh, and then the brother-in-law of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called President Obama an anti-Semite. All of which is the backdrop for the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu that took place at the White House yesterday.
Normally, these diplomatic powwows double as publicity events, with both leaders shaking hands, holding frozen smiles for the cameras, and proclaiming their mutual affection for one another and their plans to cooperate closely in the future. This time, not so much.
Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office Tuesday evening for an unexpectedly-long 89-minutes until about 7:00, then stayed to consult with his own staff in the Roosevelt Room, according to a source briefed on the meeting. The two then met again for 35 minutes at 8:20 at Netanyahu’s request, the source said. But the meetings were shrouded in unusual secrecy, in part because U.S. officials, who just ten days earlier called the surprise announcement of new housing in East Jerusalem an “insult” and an “affront,” made sure to reward Netanyahu with a series of small snubs: There were no photographs released from the meeting, and no briefing for the press.
With no photos, briefings, or readouts, we’re forced to speculate on how the meeting went. We’ll take a wild stab at it and say “not well.”