Opinion Brief

Netanyahu's 'invisible' White House visit

No fancy state dinner. No press conference. Not even a photo op. Here, 4 things that didn't happen when the spatting U.S. and Israeli leaders met this week

In a meeting many hoped would be pivotal to peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited President Obama at the White House on Tuesday. Despite the meeting's potential to ease tensions over Israel's new housing plans in disputed East Jerusalem, the White House kept the sit-down extremely quiet, treating Netanyahu "as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator," says Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post. Whether the muted visit was a sign of U.S. displeasure at Netanyahu's refusal to budge on the new settlements, retaliation for Israel's perceived snub of Vice President Joe Biden, or hardball negotiating, here are four friendly formalities that were missing:

1. No pomp: A visiting head of state normally gets the red-carpet treatment at the White House, often involving a high-profile social event. Netanyahu got no such niceties during his 89-minute meeting with President Obama, followed by a quick consultation with his staff in the Roosevelt Room, and another 35 minutes with Obama.

2. No photos: Photo ops are standard when leaders meet. But the White House barred media coverage of the Oval Office talks, and refused to allow non-official photographers "to record the scene or even a handshake" between Netanyahu and Obama.

3. No press conference: Typically, the president and visiting leaders issue a joint statement or hold a briefing for the media after they wrap up a meeting. Neither the U.S. nor Israel "released the usual 'readout' of the meetings' content," which is a likely indicator that there's still considerable "distance between the sides" over Israel's illegal settlements, say Laura Rozen and Ben Smith in Politico.

4. No olive branches: A concession from Israel certainly would have shaken things up. But Netanyahu not only expressed defiance on the issue of new settlements, he also lobbied members of Congress for support to "limit Obama’s political ability to demand concessions from Israel in future peace talks," says Jay Bookman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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