WASHINGTON - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday in a bid to thaw frosty personal ties, turn the page on the Iran nuclear deal and talk defence.
The White House meeting, scheduled for 10:30 am (1530 GMT), will be closely watched in particular because it marks the first encounter by the two leaders since October 2014. Since then, Washington and other world powers reached a landmark nuclear accord with Tehran in a move Israel strictly opposed. In the wake of that July agreement, the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama – who no longer bother to hide the extent of their differences – has only deteriorated further.
Matters between the two have been tense for some time. And in March, Netanyahu, chief of the rightwing Likud Party, traveled to the US capital to court Republicans, Obama’s political opponents, and addressed Congress – much to the displeasure of the White House. Monday’s face-to-face talks, which look to be more functional than warm in nature, are meant to heal the rift left by that episode and enable the reaffirmation of the unwavering nature of the security alliance between Washington and the Jewish state.
The White House has sought to downplay personal feelings, with spokesman Josh Earnest saying they were “not nearly as important as their ability to work together to advance the national security interests of the two countries that they lead.”
But the Israeli daily Maariv on Sunday likened the planned meeting to that of a “separated, bitter couple who, after many fights, is only there to make final financial arrangements before the divorce.”