After Meeting, U.S.-Israel Relations Still Thorny

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday night.

The meeting came after tense diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Israel over the construction of buildings and houses in east Jerusalem.

Although the White House has been very critical of the Jewish state in recent weeks, both parties in Congress have made it clear they support America's long-time ally.

Rough Road Ahead

The attempt to smooth over relations between the U.S. and Israel doesn't appear to be making much progress.

During his trip to Washington, Netanyahu made the rounds meeting with leaders on Capitol Hill before meeting with Obama at White House.

Click play for more on the diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Israel with Regent University Professor David Meyer, following John Jessup's report.

However, unlike past meetings, this one was held behind closed doors without the usual fanfare -- no press, no pictures of the formal handshake and no public announcements on what was discussed.

A spokesman for Netanyahu said the hour and a half meeting was conducted in a "good atmosphere." And press reports said the Israeli leader requested to see Obama a second time in a meeting that lasted about 30 minutes.

A Diplomatic Crisis

Tension in U.S.-Israeli relations broke out when Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Israel two weeks ago and Israeli officials announced plans to build 1,600 housing units in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.

The Obama administration condemned the plans, warning that the construction could threaten Israel's security and throw off the U.S.-backed peace plan for a separate Jewish and Palestinian state.

"This was not about wounded pride nor is it a judgment on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be settled at the negotiating table," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. "This is about getting to the table."

However, several staunch supporters of Israel criticized the White House for its attacks on the new construction in Jerusalem.

"I never thought I'd live to see the day that an American administration would denounce the Jewish State of Israel for rebuilding Jerusalem," Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said.

Netanyahu said those buildings shouldn't even be called "settlements."

"Jerusalem is not a settlement. It's our capital," the Israeli prime minister told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's conference Tuesday night.

A Hidden Agenda?

Meanwhile, Israeli pollster Mitchell Barak has suggested there could be a hidden agenda behind the uproar.

"For the Obama administration's objective they would much rather have some one else as prime minister of Israel, someone in a left-of-center party," Barak said.

Another possible White House concern is whether Israel might carry out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

The construction issue may be being used by the Obama administration to put Israel in its place so that it will not do anything rash - like attack the Iranians without U.S. approval.

"I am certain that Israel and America will always stand together," Netanyahu said.

But while publicly Netanyahu is proclaiming solidarity, some experts in Israel are saying the problems will not likely go away.

*Original broadcast March 24, 2010.

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