Washington (CNN) – The president’s recent closed-door meeting with Israel’s prime minister - which lacked the fanfare and niceties normally associated with greeting another world leader - was a working meeting where issues in the U.S.-Israeli relationship were discussed bluntly, White House senior adviser David Axelrod said.
Asked about the low-key way in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was greeted at the White House last week, Axelrod dismissed any suggestion that the lack of formalities was intended to send a message to Israel.
“[T]here was no snub intended,” Axelrod said in an interview that airs Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
“This was not about a ceremonial meeting,” Axelrod told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “This was a working meeting.”
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Axelrod added, “Look, Israel is a close, dear, and valued friend of the U.S., a great ally. That is an unshakeable bond. But sometimes part of friendship is expressing yourself bluntly.”
Asked why the United States did not simply withhold the billions of dollars in aid it gives Israel every year, the Obama adviser responded that the administration was working its way through its concerns with Israel. “We think we're doing it in the appropriate way,” he said, “And I'm confident that we will make progress. But we're going to make it by being blunt and straightforward, as allies are, and use the channel, the appropriate channels.”
Asked whether the U.S.-Israeli relationship was tense, Axelrod was again diplomatic in his response.
“As I said, I think the relationship ultimately is strong. But we are – we have an abiding interest in the long-term security of Israel and the region. And we're going to do what we can to provide leadership in that direction.”
The relationship between the two allies has appeared strained recently. Israel’s announcement of plans for new settlements in a disputed area in East Jerusalem, which was made during Vice President Biden’s visit to the Middle Eastern country, resulted in a stinging rebuke from Secretary of State Clinton. Some political observers suggested last week that Netanyahu’s low-key greeting from the White House was meant to send a message to Israel.
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