Obama, Netanyahu 'display the discord' in talks
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's White House meeting with US President Barack Obama was tense, cold, and a sign of the ideological divide between the two leaders, Israeli media said Sunday.
Commentators across the political spectrum described the Friday meeting, which came a day after Obama's call for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal based on the 1967 borders, as sour and uncomfortable.
And they suggested that Netanyahu used the talks to boost his domestic credibility with his right-wing coalition by rejecting the peace deal terms Obama laid out in his policy speech.
Israeli newspapers do not publish on Saturday, making Sunday's editions the first chance for most analysts to digest the Friday talks.
Writing in Yediot Aharonot, Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer described the meeting as exceptionally cold.
"When we entered the Oval Office, we found two people with sour faces... neither looked at the other," they wrote.
"Obama spoke first, as is customary, and Netanyahu, making a firm decision, glared at him, as if he had spotted a missed crumb on Obama's cheek and he was just waiting for an opportunity to give him a slap to shake loose that crumb."
"When it was Netanyahu's turn to speak, Obama grabbed his chin with his right hand, as if he needed a quick crutch to help him bear everything he was about to hear... In the end, he was holding his entire cheek."
Barnea and Shiffer said the "tension between the two men was real," and both appeared to have decided to display the discord rather than try to hide it.
For Netanyahu, they wrote, the meeting was intended to show Israelis that he "is fighting courageously Israel's battle for existence and isn't afraid of clashing fiercely even with the president of the United States."
Ben Caspit, writing in Maariv, went further and declared that Netanyahu's election campaign "began Friday, in the Oval Office in the White House."
"Benjamin Netanyahu, more combative than ever, wasn't speaking there to Barack Obama, who sat frozen next to him, but to the Israeli people."
Caspit said the Israeli prime minister had acted as a right-wing leader was supposed to, with "solid determination and a certain sort of bravery."
"It is not easy to sit with the strongest man in the world, in his house, and dump a bucket of sewage on his head," he wrote.
Still, he cautioned that Netanyahu had "declared war on America," and that "many people have done this before, very few have lived to tell the tale."
Left-leaning Haaretz devoted its editorial to the meeting, warning of the dangers of sour relations with Washington
"Netanyhahu's decision to have Israel clash with Obama is not only a dead end, it could remove the only protective wall Israel has left and sacrifice the country's future on the altar of hollow ideology and unbridled nationalism."
Aluf Benn, writing in Haaretz, said it seemed clear that despite their personal dislike for each other, the main division between the leaders was one of ideology.
"Obama is a revolutionary who wants to give power to the mass. Netanyahu is a conservative, sticking to the status quo and fearing change," he wrote.
In the Jerusalem Post, commentator Herb Keinon agreed, describing the gulf between the leaders as a "conceptual one," with Obama seeing regional upheaval as a chance to relaunch the peace process and Netanyahu regarding it as a moment to "step back and let the dust settle."
"This isn't a personal crisis, it is not the result of a 'bad connection' or 'bad blood'... it is reflective of significantly different ways of viewing reality."