Netanyahu spends unheralded time at White House

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 24, 2010; 1:00 AM

Amid high tensions in U.S.-Israeli relations, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with President Obama for a total of two hours in two meetings at the White House Tuesday night under a virtual news blackout.

No reporters or photographers were invited to record the scene or even a handshake between the two leaders, who met one day after Netanyahu, in a speech to a pro-Israel group, rejected the administration's plea that he halt construction in a disputed area of Jerusalem claimed by Palestinians as their capital.

Generally, a leader of an ally would expect to have a joint news conference with the president or at least a joint appearance before photographers. But the White House did not even immediately release a statement providing a summary of the meeting's topics.

A U.S. official said that Obama and Netanyahu initially met in the Oval Office from 5:34 to 7:03 p.m. Obama then went to the residence while Netanyahu conferred with his aides in the Roosevelt room. Netanyahu then requested another meeting, and the two leaders returned to the Oval Office for a discussion that lasted from 8:20 to 8:55 p.m., the official said. He did not provide an explanation for the two meetings.

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