WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. and Israeli teams issued a three-sentence statement describing little more than a "good atmosphere" hours after President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met privately for 90 minutes.
"U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met privately for approximately 1.5 hours," said the statement released by Israel about 2 a.m. Eastern time — at least six hours after the meeting ended. "Afterwards, the two leaders’ teams of advisors continued to raise the ideas that were raised at the meeting. The teams’ joint discussions will continue tomorrow."
Netanyahu is in Washington with a large team of advisers in a bid to end tensions with the Obama administration sparked two weeks ago when Israel announced a major housing start in eastern Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden aimed at underscoring the close U.S.-Israel relationship and restarting peace talks. U.S. officials called the announcement an "insult" and Palestinians backed out of the "proximity" talks.
The Obama administration is pressing for a total settlement freeze. Netanyahu says building in all parts of Jerusalem will continue.