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      Obama Dresses Down Netanyahu: No Photo Ops or Statements

      White House spokesman: Israeli building in eastern Jerusalem is 'destructive' to the Mideast peace process.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 3/24/2010, 9:45 PM / Last Update: 3/24/2010, 10:05 PM

      White House

      President Barack Obama appeared to carry on a policy of intentionally humiliating Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu this week, by ignoring custom and abstaining from any public appearance with him during Netanyahu's visit to the White House.

      In a particularly unusual step, no press coverage or photographs of Netanyahu's meeting Tuesday with Obama at the White House were permitted. 

      Photographers had to make do with paparazzi-style shots of a somewhat grim-faced Netanyahu, accompanied by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, shot from a distance as they passed though a corridor between meetings.

      An administration official who declined to be identified told the Associated Press that “photographs would have been inappropriate given the current situation.” A photographer was allowed, however, into a meeting between the Israeli leader and Vice President Joe Biden on Monday. 


      Barak and Netanyahu meet with Biden / White House

      Although Obama and Netanyahu met twice for a total of two hours, the White House did not issue a formal statement on the content of either meeting, in yet another break with tradition. Obama left it to spokesmen to issue terse statements on the talks with Israel.

      Mark Toner, the deputy State Department spokesman, said that “the US made clear it is looking for steps to increase confidence and show commitment to the process."

      Construction 'destructive'
      A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said the White House continues to believe that Israeli building in eastern Jerusalem is “destructive” to the Middle East peace process. He said the US was asking for "clarification" regarding the building plan for the Shepherd Hotel compound and called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority “to refrain from acts that could undermine trust.”

      Netanyahu was reported to be conferring with his top diplomatic advisers Wednesday, in a sign of the tension and uncertainty that appear to characterize the current visit to Washington.

      He showed no sign of straying from Israeli policy regarding Jerusalem, however, telling congressional leaders he was concerned that peace talks “could be delayed for another year” unless the Palestinian Authority lets go of its demand for a full freeze on construction for Jews in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

      "We must not be trapped by an illogical and unreasonable demand," Netanyahu said, according to his spokesman.