President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seek to mend their fractured relationship when they meet at the White House, the first time they have talked face to face in more than a year. Tensions over the U.S.-backed nuclear deal with Iran continue to strain ties between the longtime allies. But there's also little hope of progress on other matters, with U.S. officials downplaying the chance of a breakthrough in ongoing security talks and ruling out the prospect of a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians before Obama leaves office in 14 months. "The president has reached that conclusion that right now baring a major shift that the parties are not going to be in a position to negotiate a final status agreement," White House Middle East adviser Rob Malley said ahead of Netanyahu's arrival in Washington. The meeting will also be clouded by the controversy following Netanyahu's appointment of a new spokesman who has spoken derisively about Obama. Ran Baratz, a conservative commentator, has suggested in Facebook posts that Obama is anti-Semitic and Secretary of State John Kerry cannot be taken seriously.
Obama didn't meet the prime minister when he traveled to Washington to address lawmakers, citing the proximity to Israeli elections that resulted in Netanyahu staying in power. The leaders also did not meet while Netanyahu was in the U.S. in September to speak to the United Nations General Assembly.
Officials in both governments have been discussing a new security agreement that could result in increased U.S. military assistance to Israel. U.S. officials said that while they did not expect Monday's talks to result in a final agreement, it was significant that the leaders planned to discuss the matter given that Netanyahu had refused to do so in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear agreement. "We do believe it's very important that in an uncertain security environment, we are signaling our long-term commitment to Israel and its security, and are designing a package that is tailored to the threats and challenges that Israel will be facing over the course of the next decade," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.
The relations between Israel and the U.S. are in an unprecedented era as it has become visible that the two countries are disappointed with each other's some policies. Netanyahu holds a hardliner position regarding the nuclear talks with Iran, whereas the Obama administration seeks diplomatic solutions. Furthermore, the U.S. administration continuously voices concerns over the construction of new settlements by the Israeli government in the occupied territories and invites Israel to engage in a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, though this seems unlikely given the recent formation of, perhaps, one of the most right-wing coalition governments in Israel's history.