This we know: Yesterday evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu entered the White House and met with President Obama in the Oval Office from 5:34 to 7:03; he then met with aides in the Roosevelt Room; requested a follow-up meeting; and President Obama, returning from the family quarters, met with Bibi in the Oval Office again from 8:20 to 8:55. Beyond that, we’re like Kay at the end of The Godfather when they close the door on her. Neither side has released a statement about the meeting, which is rare and suggests that even basic tenets could not be agreed upon.
Laura Rozen and Ben Smith report—echoing what Allison Hoffman wrote yesterday—that Netanyahu’s intense focus on lobbying Congress is solid evidence that the White House is not buying whatever he’s trying to sell.
And what may have further complicated what went on behind those closed doors was the unserendipitously timed announcement of, yup, more Jewish building in East Jerusalem. “This is exactly what we expect Prime Minister Netanyahu to get control of,” a senior U.S. official reportedly said. “The current drip-drip-drip of projects in East Jerusalem impedes progress.” The White House has requested “clarification” of these plans. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that the government had taken steps to ensure that surprise housing announcements didn’t happen again. Of course, he said that a few hours before this latest one.
And I haven’t even yet mentioned Iran, which Israel, at least, considers the real paramount issue. Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh reports that Obama had been all set to turn his Administration’s attention away from the settlements (and indeed the peace process) and toward Iran … and then announcement-gate happened. Not clear how accurate this report is—after all, U.S.-sponsored “proximity talks” were, and technically still are, in the offing—but there you have it.
So, a few known knowns, several known unknowns, and probably even a few unknown unknowns. Just another day in the special relationship.