'Israel is an ally, not problem of US'

US diplomat PM trying t

Senior Israel officials on Wednesday adamantly rejected the latest media speculation over bad blood between Jerusalem and Washington, backed by one US official expressing anger at the Israeli leader's conduct in the past weeks, which might have brought on the possibly punitive blackout imposed on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's 100-minute talk with US President Barack Obama. "The reception [of Netanyahu in the White House] was cordial and friendly in many aspects, and even included rolling-up sleeves and cracking open beer bottles when necessary, in line with the tradition of coordination between senior Israeli and US officials," National Security Adviser Uzi Arad told Israel Radio from Paris, where the prime minister and his entourage have landed for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other officials. The complexity of the situation is due to the volume of the issues at hand, Arad explained, and does not stem from a rift between the allies. In the talks, Washington expressed its expectations, but the US is aware of Jerusalem's stances, and knows that Israel won't meet all of them, he said. "The US understands that Israel is the authority on the content of its talks with the Palestinians," he stressed. Arad pooh-poohed the abundant and diverse speculations on the reasons behind what appeared to be a cold American shoulder in the past few days. "If we look at the media reports - I'll speak as a former member of the intelligence community - there is a plethora of contradictions in the various reports, which goes to show that at least some are very wrong… though some contain truth," Arad said. "Talk is cheap," Arad pointed out. "Look at the essence, not the wrappings. The lack of a media briefing, which was in accordance to both sides' opinion, was due to reasons that might be possible to explain in the future," he said, noting the White House announcement which, according to Arad, contained the essence of the meeting. "The president reaffirmed his strong commitment to Israel's security, and discussed security cooperation on a range of issues. The president and prime minister also discussed Iran and how to move forward on Middle East peace," the announcement said. "Israel is not the problem, but rather a partner" to the US, Arad reiterated. Also on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser rejected reports claiming the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama was tense. "There was a positive meeting, the relationship is sound, the meeting was long and good," he told Army Radio. "Speculations should not be made according to the form, the substance is what's significant," Hauser added, echoing Arad's sentiment. An unnamed US diplomat on Wednesday told Army Radio that the feeling in Washington was that Netanyahu had been trying to maneuver the US administration over the past few weeks. The official went on to cite Netanyahu's conduct in press briefings, presumably those following meetings with Obama and other high ranking White House officials in the past, as evidence of the prime minister's attempt to sway opinion. The diplomat also mentioned the prime minister's apparent efforts to pressure the US administration through Washington lobbying. The White House's conduct over the past few days, he said, was an attempt to set things straight. Yet another unnamed US official was quoted expressing dissatisfaction with Netanyahu over what the Israeli leader said, or rather did not, in his address to the Jewish Federations of North America's annual General Assembly on Monday. "We had an idea that he might bring something out to push the process forward," the Wall Street Journal quoted the official on Tuesday as saying in reference to an Israeli settlement freeze. "But he's kept it in his pocket."