WASHINGTON - The White House insisted Sunday there was "no snub" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his meeting with President Barack Obama, and stressed the "unshakeable" US bonds with its Mideast ally.
"This was not about formalities. This was not about a ceremonial meeting. This was a working meeting. A working meeting among friends," White House senior adviser David Axelrod told CNN.
"There was no snub intended. Look, Israel is a close, dear and valued friend of the US. A great ally. That is an unshakeable bond," Axelrod said.
He added however that "sometimes, part of friendship is expressing yourself bluntly."
He made his remarks after the United States last week refused to back down in a row over Jewish settlements that has driven a wedge between the two countries.
"We have a deep abiding interest in Israel's security and we believe the peace process is essential to that. We are doing everything we can to move that process forward," the adviser said in a broadcast that aired Sunday.
Asked on ABC television's "This Week" program on Sunday whether there is a personal bond of trust between Obama and Netanyahu, another senior White House adviser, Valerie Jarrett, insisted that there is.
"Absolutely. Absolutely. The United States is a strong and ardent ally of Israel," she said.
"The fact of the matter is that friends can disagree, and I think what's important is that world leaders are able to sit down with one another, have frank conversations and move forward.
"I don't think there is any doubt in the mind of Bibi Netanyahu about the president's commitment to Israel and its safety, and how important it is for the United States and for the region," Jarrett said.
The White House failed last week to end a row with Israel during Netanyahu's visit to Washington, and the prime minister returned home to a torrent of media derision after he was deprived of the normal trappings granted to a visiting leader at the White House.
Obama met Netanyahu for two separate meetings at the White House on Tuesday lasting two hours. The next day Netanyahu met US envoy George Mitchell, and national security staff from the two allies spent hours in negotiations.
But Netanyahu left Washington with no announcement on an agreement to end a rare row with the United States and move towards US-mediated "proximity" talks with the Palestinians.
The US-Israel rupture emerged two weeks ago when officials in Israel announced plans to build 1,600 Jewish settlements in annexed east Jerusalem, embarrassing Vice President Joe Biden when he was in the country.
It has since revealed philosophical and political differences between Washington and Israel towards peace moves, reflected in a row over settlement building that the United States says is undermining its role as a mediator.
Gibbs said Wednesday that Obama had asked Netanyahu to take up a set of confidence-building measures to promote peace talks.
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