Axelrod: U.S. did not 'snub' Israel this week

White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod on Sunday stressed there was "no snub intended" in a meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the disputed housing construction in East Jerusalem.

Rather, Axelrod reassured on CNN's "State of the Union" that Israel remains a "close, dear and valued friend of the United States, a great ally, and that is an unshakeable bond."

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However, Axelrod added that part of the two countries' friendship involves stating yourself "bluntly," especially on areas of disagreement.

The senior adviser said the United States did just that last week during conversations about Israel's plans to construct 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, a move the White House believes will antagonize the Middle East peace process as the Palestinians are pressing for East Jerusalem as their new capital.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has been increasingly critical of Israel and Netanyahu.

Among other comments, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told attendees at the AIPAC conference last week that the country's new construction plans were "unacceptable to the United States."

Even Axelrod has hammered Netanyahu's decision, telling NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday that the building would obstruct the peace process.

"We have just started proximity talks, that is shuttle diplomacy, between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and for this announcement to come at that time was very destructive," he said.

But Axelrod seemed to temper his criticism this Sunday. While he repeated the White House's concerns with Israel's determination to continue building in East Jerusalem, he said the United States hardly snubbed the country during the prime minister's visit to Washington this week.

In fact, the adviser noted that Obama extended its invitation to Netanyahu, who defended Israel's intentions in an AIPAC speech the night before meeting Obama, almost immediately after the White House canceled its trip to East Asia in order to stay in Washington for the healthcare debate and vote.

"As soon as we canceled the trip, we extended the invitation to the prime minister," he said. "The president spent two hours alone with him."

"This was not about form, this was not a ceremonial meeting; this was a working meeting among friends," he continued. "So there was no snub intended."

According to Israeli reports, Obama walked out of his meeting with the prime minister for a private dinner. The Times of London cited a congressman as saying that Obama left Netanyahu at the White House, said he could consult with his delegation, and “let me know if there is anything new." The unnamed congressman said, "It was awful."

Separately, White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett told ABC's "This Week" that the bond between Obama and Netanyahu remained strong, despite their recent disagreements.

"The fact of the matter is that friends can disagree," she said. "I don't think there's any doubt in the mind of Netanyahu of the president's committment to Israel and its safety."

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