March 19, 2010
No Netanyahu-Obama meeting on schedule
A meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama has not been scheduled.
Obama administration officials pushed back against a Fox News report on Friday that the two leaders would meet in the Oval Office on Tuesday; nothing has been scheduled yet, the officials told JTA.
The meeting would come after two weeks of tension triggered by Israel’s announcement of a major housing start in eastern Jerusalem during what was supposed to have been a friendly visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Officials at the Israeli embassy said they did not know of the meeting.
Netanyahu will be in Washington visit to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy forum; Obama was going to be on a tour of the Far East. When the White House announced Thursday that the trip was cancelled because Obama was determined to shepherd his health care package through Congress, speculation turned to whether the two men would meet. A snub would be seen as a major humiliation for Netanyahu.
On Thursday, Netanyahu phoned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and outlined for her measures he proposed to smooth the waters and entice back to talks the Palestinian Authority, which had suspended negotiations because of the announcement.
Neither side revealed the nature of Netanyahu’s proposals, but media have suggested that Netanyahu might quietly suspend the Jerusalem project.
(This updates the earlier report on Fox News’ report that a meeting would take place.)