Washington (CNN) – The White House says President Obama will attempt to "seize momentum" in the Middle East peace process when he sits down Tuesday morning for a rescheduled Oval office meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The gaps have narrowed," said Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.
In a conference call briefing ahead of the long anticipated meeting, Rhodes and Dan Shapiro, NSC Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the meeting would focus on how to move proximity talks to direct talks, and on the recent "liberalization" of Israel's policy on commercial traffic into Gaza.
The controversial embargo, which blocked the flow of goods from Gaza to Israel, turned deadly in May, when Israeli forces stormed a vessel that was part of a Gaza bound humanitarian flotilla. At least nine people were killed.
Shapiro said the situation had been "unsustainable," but officials added that the U.S. continues to be sensitive to Israel's security concerns over weapons being shipped into Gaza.
Tuesday's meeting would come on the heels of visits to the White House by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Tuesday, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on June 9th. Administration officials said those discussions centered on issues of regional security and progress made in gaining tougher UN sanctions on Iran.
This would be the fifth meeting between President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu since the Prime Minister took office last spring.
While the White House has downplayed any rift between the two leaders, some have described the relationship as "frosty." During Netanyahu's last visit to the White House he was left to consult with his own staff in the Roosevelt room for more than one hour, after the President retreated to his residence.
In addition, the White House didn't schedule media access to that meeting. That's something normally afforded a head of government or state. President Obama, now 18 months into his presidency, has yet to visit Israel – and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he's not aware of any plans for a trip.
Shapiro dismissed the idea of a rift between the U.S. and Israel instead he touted the relationship. "This is a very close relationship, a special relationship, a strategic alliance with one of our closest partners in not just the Middle East but the entire world." Shapiro said.