The White House issued a sharply worded warning to Israel on Wednesday over proposed settlements in a disputed part of east Jerusalem, hours after President Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, (and) distance Israel from even its closest allies,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The spokesman also said the proposed housing project would “poison the atmosphere, not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations.”
The settlement plan — the latest dispute in the often tense Obama-Netantyahu relationship — surfaced during a meeting in which the president praised Israel’s support for the fight against the Islamic State, while the prime minister focused on what he called a more important issue: Iran.
“Everybody should support” efforts to roll back the Islamic State, Netanyahu said, then added: “Even more critical is our shared goal of preventing Iran from becoming a military nuclear power.”
Netanyahu urged Obama not to sign what he considers a bad nuclear agreement with Iran that would allow it to become a “threshold nuclear power: I fervently hope that under your leadership that would not happen.”
For his part, Obama pressed Netanyahu on another dispute in their sometimes-tense relationship, civilian Palestinian deaths in the armed conflict with Hamas in Gaza.
“We have to find a way to change the status quo so that both Israeli citizens are safe in their own homes … but also that we don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well,” Obama said.
Netanyahu said he is committed to a two-state vision for the Israelis and Palestinians, “based on mutual recognition and rock solid security arrangements on the ground.”
The Israeli settlement issue is a source of dispute, however, because the Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Netanyahu spent nearly two hours at the White House. The two leaders spoke with reporters before their Oval Office meeting.
In his opening remarks, Obama cited the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel, including an “ironclad commitment to make sure Israel is secure.”
Netanyahu thanked the United States for its support, including money for the Iron Dome missile defense system that has blocked rocket attacks from Gaza.
The United States and allies are negotiating with Iran over the status of its nuclear program. Netanyahu has warned the United States about the talks, saying that Iran is seeking the means to make a nuclear weapon. Iran denies it.
Over the years, Obama and Netanyahu, who have very different political philosophies, have had their share of awkward moments.
During a 2011 summit in France, Obama got caught on an open microphone telling then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy of Netanyahu: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.”
Read More:Obama team warns Israel over settlements.