Obama-Netanyahu meeting shrouded in secrecy

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

First, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to jump through hoops just to get a meeting with US President Barack Obama. When they did meet on Monday, the contents of their talks were either so negative or so classified that a near-total media blackout was placed on the gathering.

Netanyahu left Israel for Washington on Sunday to attend and address the 2009 General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. Weeks earlier, he had requested to meet with Obama during the visit, a typical occurrence any time an Israeli leader travels to the US. But this time, the Obama White House made Netanyahu sweat it out till the last minute before, as media reports put it, "grudgingly" scheduling a meeting.

The White House's apparent reluctance to invite Netanyahu was an indication to most Israelis that relations remain tense between the Obama Administration and Jerusalem.

Then things got really curious when the White House totally broke protocol by barring the media from the meeting. Following the two-hour get-together, Netanyahu left the White House immediately without speaking to reporters, and promptly cancelled a press conference that had been scheduled for Tuesday. Instead, he hopped on a plane for Europe.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who attended part of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, also cancelled several radio interviews scheduled for Tuesday.

Speculation was rife in Israel that the unusual secrecy surrounding the meeting could either mean that Obama tried to strong-arm the Israelis to surrender to Palestinian demands and was firmly repulsed, or that the meeting focused on an impending Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

In remarks to Israel's Ynet news portal, attorney Dov Weisglass, who served as bureau chief to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, added a third option - that Netanyahu had agreed to far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians and wanted to keep the details under wraps for now to avoid a political storm at home.

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