U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put their tension aside -- at least for the press -- before the two leaders met privately Wednesday at the White House. The meeting was the first between the two world leaders since Netanyahu accused Obama of telling “brazen lies” about Israel’s unwillingness to make peace with the Palestinians. It was also the first meeting between Obama and Netanyahu since Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s military operation against Gaza, ended Aug. 28 following an Egypt-brokered cease-fire.
While Obama and Netanyahu have had a mostly rocky relationship, no animosity was on display when the two leaders poised for a photo-op at the White House for reporters. Netanyahu and Obama both were “cordial and businesslike,” Reuters reported.
Wednesday’s meeting was expected to center on the U.S.-led negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu told Obama that he doesn’t want Iran to be at the “threshold” of having the capability to develop nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. The U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China have a Nov. 24 deadline to reach a deal with Iran.
"Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power," Netanyahu told Obama, according to the Associated Press. "And I firmly hope under your leadership that would not happen."
The possibility of restarting the peace process was also expected to be part of the leaders’ discussion. Obama further stoked tension when he said in late September that there are “too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace,” adding, “that’s something worthy of reflection within Israel.”
Netanyahu partially took aim at Obama when he addressed the U.N. General Assembly late last month. He said there were “brazen lies spoken from this very podium against my country.”
Meanwhile, Obama has been frustrated by Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, which the administration argues hampers the peace process.
The tension was addressed in the Israeli press. Chemi Shalev, editor of the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, said the White House was looking forward to the meeting with Netanyahu “like one anticipates a dentist’s appointment or a pestering grumpy uncle who just called to say that he must come over.”
Netanyahu and Obama were also expected to talk about the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, which is conducting airstrikes against the militant group in Iraq and Syria. Israel supports the operation.