JERUSALEM, Israel -- Secretary of State John Kerry said he never had such a homey welcome anywhere, referring jokingly to what he called the "New England" snowstorm that's blanketing the Middle East.
Despite Kerry's visit and other threats looming in the Middle East, the weather has been grabbing all the attention and headlines for nearly a week.
Jerusalem is facing its third snowstorm in as many days. Many city residents are without power and hundreds of cars are stranded along the two main highways into the capital.
Overnight, the army and rescue services rescued more than 2,000 citizens from their cars and took them to emergency centers.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said his city was facing "a rare storm, the likes of which we've never seen."
The storm, which some say is the biggest in 50 years, could dump another 20 inches of snow in Jerusalem and elsewhere. It should wane by Saturday.
Despite the stormy weather, Kerry returned to the region for another round of shuttle diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians. He said it took him hours to return to Jerusalem from Ramallah on Thursday (normally not more than 30 minutes).
"I've heard of making your guests welcome and feeling at home. this is about as far as I've ever seen anybody go, giving me a nice New England snow storm," Kerry told Netanyahu in front of the cameras.
Netanyahu joked the intensity of the storm.
"Jerusalem was under siege once in antiquity. We're celebrating -- we're commemorating that today. It's under a snow siege today," Netanyahu said.
Kerry has reportedly been trying to sell the Palestinians on the idea of letting the Israeli army stay in the Jordan Valley for 10 years. Israel has said from the beginning it would not leave the Jordan Valley in any future agreement with the Palestinians.
Doing so would leave Israel vulnerable to attack from the entire Arab world. But the Palestinian Authority has refused to consider Kerry's proposal.