David Axelrod, top adviser to US President Barack Obama, denied Sunday in an interview that Obama's low-key treatment of visiting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was not intended to deliver a public dressing-down of the leader.
“[T]here was no snub intended,” Axelrod said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union. “This was not about a ceremonial meeting; this was a working meeting.”
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.”
CNN's Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley asked Axelrod why the United States did not simply withhold the billions of dollars in aid it gives Israel every year as a means of pressuring it. Axelrod did not reject the idea and hinted that the administration was indeed pressuring Israel. “We're doing it in the appropriate way, and I'm confident that we will make progress,” he said. “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 replied: “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.”
Obama met Netanyahu without holding a public handshake, a photo opportunity or a press conference. The US President has a history of publicly humiliating Netanyahu: On the last time Netanyahu visited the president, he was brought into the White House grounds in an SUV, not a limousine, which entered through a side entrance. In the past, Obama has had his photograph taken speaking with Netanyahu on the telephone with his feet on his desk.