US President Barack Obama met twice with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for honest and straightforward talks, the White House said on Thursday.
The meeting between the two leaders comes on the heels of some recent friction between the US and Israel on settlement issues.
The meeting was kept a low profile and out of bounds for the White House media.
“The President and the Prime Minister met, first off, the Oval, and had an honest and straightforward discussion about our relationship, about regional security and about comprehensive peace efforts,” White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters on Thursday.
“The President asked the Prime Minister to take steps to build confidence for proximity talks so that progress can be made towards comprehensive Middle East peace. There are areas of agreement, there are areas of disagreement, and that conversation is ongoing,” he said.
Giving details of the meeting, Mr. Gibbs said the Israeli Prime Minister arrived a little after 5:30 pm. That meeting concluded a little after 7:00 pm last evening.
Prime Minister Netanyahu remained in the White House and consulted with his staff in the Roosevelt Room and then requested to see the President again, and they returned to the Oval Office at about 8:20 pm and met for a little more than half an hour,” he said.
“They spoke for over two hours last night, face to face, so I think we have a strong relationship with a strong ally.
There are areas that they discussed last night, some of which they agree and some of which they disagree. And as I’ve said, those talks are ongoing. But the conversation was honest and straightforward,” he said.
However, Mr. Gibbs refrained from taking any question on the settlement issue or go into the substance of the meeting.
“I am not going to get into the substance of what they talked about at each of the meetings. Again, we have asked the Prime Minister to take steps to build confidence for proximity talks to be able to make progress,” he said.
When asked why there was second meeting between the two leaders, Mr. Gibbs said at the conclusion of that first meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted not to leave but instead meet with staff -- his staff here, his team here.
They did so in the Roosevelt Room.
“At some point, I don’t know exact timing, but at some point, they came -- word was sent out of that meeting that the Prime Minister would like to see the President -- requested to see the President again,” he said.
Mr. Gibbs said the Israeli Prime Minister has some meetings with other administration officials on the agenda for yesterday, but no plans to meet face to face with the president again.