Obama: We need 'facts' ASAP
Meeting postponed, US President presses PM for flotilla-raid details.
Obama talking to Netanyahu on the phone Photo: Pete Souza
WASHINGTON – US
President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu Monday after the latter cancelled a planned Oval Office
meeting scheduled for Tuesday.The
visit had been expected to reaffirm the strong US-Israel relationship
after weeks of tension and provide a public welcome to Netanyahu after
his nighttime White House visit in March was conducted under a total
media blackout. It was to come in the midst of nascent proximity talks
between Israelis and Palestinians as the US sought to build momentum to
move to direct negotiations and ahead of a high-profile visit of
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House next
During their 15-minute
conversation, Obama conveyed his understanding for Netanyahu’s decision
to return immediately to Israel from Canada and not stop in Washington
following the deadly clash between the IDF and activists trying to break
the Gaza blockade earlier in the day.
Ban Ki-moon: 'Shocked by raids'
Navy escorts flotilla ships to Ashdod
The two leaders also
agreed to reschedule their meeting at the first opportunity. “The
president expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today's incident,
and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli
hospitals,” a statement put out by the White House read. “The president
also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and
circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible.”
“It shows how
hard it is to purposefully change the momentum” in Middle
East peace-making, Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and
International Studies noted. “Even when you try to build small steps to
change things, the waves come crashing down.”
He also assessed that in contrast to the Europeans, who already were
using the incident Monday to reinforce calls for an end to the Gaza
blockade, the Americans would want to have a fuller grasp of the
situation before reviewing Gaza policy.
“On the American side there’s going to be a real desire to understand
what happened,” he said.