Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Barack Obama at a meeting at the White House on November 9, 2015.
(photo credit: SAUL LOEB / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama attempted to lay to rest their long history as diplomatic sparring partners, as they smiled and shook hands in front of television cameras at the start of their much anticipated meeting at the White House on Monday morning.
“It was a very good and constructive meeting,” Netanyahu told reporters after his two-and-a-half hour conversation with Obama, which ran 45 minutes beyond its scheduled time.
“It was one of the best,” he added.
Unlike some past conversations, “there were no arguments or confrontation,” he explained.
It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two men in 13 months, during which time they held a ferocious public battle over the Iran deal.
In March, Netanyahu irked the White House by accepting an invitation from former House speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress on the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear capability.
He urged the Congress to vote against Obama on the Iran deal, which he believed was a historic mistake that would only strengthen Iran’s military and nuclear capability.
Obama refused to meet with him during that visit.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden were also not available to talk with him.
It was Netanyahu's only visit to Washington since he took office in 2009 in which he did not meet with Obama.
But even when he did meet with him, things did not always go so well. His October 2014 visit to Washington, in which he also spoke with Obama at the White House, ended in a public battle over settlement building.
After Netanyahu left the White House, its spokesman, Josh Earnest, attacked him for building Jewish homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Such criticism, “is against American values,” said Netanyahu. “To say that we [must] have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think its anti-peace,” he added. His words only earned him a second rebuke from the White House.
Earnest retorted from the White House podium, “It did seem odd for him to defend Israel's position by saying the US position is un-American. American values are why this country's support for Israel has been unwavering.”
But already in September of this year, Netanyahu changed his public rhetoric on Obama. During his annual address to the UN, he publicly thanked Obama for his commitment to Israel’s security.
On Monday, Netanyahu and Obama went to great lengths to show the public that their dueling days are over, particularly when it comes to the issue of the Iran deal, which has since been approved and executed.
Earnest characterized the " professional relationship" between Obama and Netanyahu as “Effective..[which] allows them to advance the interests of their two countries and most importantly, advance our shared interests."
"That is what you would expect the leaders of allied nations to do,” he said.