America and Israel have held unusually low-profile talks, which have so far failed to make any discernable progress on injecting life into the stalled Middle East peace process. Reporters were barred from the Oval Office, and a statement afterwards merely said President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed how to move the process forward.
Netanyahu had begun the day urging the Palestinians to return to negotiations immediately, repeating his willingness to restrain building in the West Bank. However the Palestinians accuse Washington of weakness over settlements, and have made halting construction a precondition to talks. Israeli sources said Netanyahu intended to tell Obama he meant business, and would be generous in restraining building in the West Bank. He has proposed only temporary curbs on expansion. The President has eased US pressure on Jewish settlement building, after earlier demanding a freeze. The Palestinians say the shift in American policy has killed any hope of a quick return to negotiations.