WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama told MSNBC on Tuesday that the underlying relationship between the US and Israel is "solid as a rock" despite the recent diplomatic rift over Israel's decision to build additional housing units in east Jerusalem.
He said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "intellectually understands that he has got to take some bold steps" and that the Palestinians have to do the same. "This is a disagreement among friends about how to move forward," Obama added.
Washington continued in its efforts to mend the rift between Israel and the US on Tuesday. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, asked about Obama's attitude to Netanyahu, said he didn't think it was punishment to be granted a two-hour meeting alone with the US president.
"The President thought they had a good discussion in the first meeting, and was happy to come back and see Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Oval Office," he added.
Some hours before Obama and his wife sat down to dinner with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, reporters asked whether there were problems in the personal relationship between Netanyahu and Obama. The White House representative sidestepped the questions and preferred to concentrate on the diplomatic plane.
"Between the two countries, as I’ve said here countless times, there is an unbreakable bond," he said. "The United States has long been dedicated to the security of an important ally. And that hasn’t, in any way, changed.
"As a result of having a mature bilateral relationship, there are going to be things that this administration, and countless previous administrations, have disagreed with this Israeli government, as they have with countless previous Israeli governments."
Gibbs reiterated the administration's position, that the two sides must take urgent steps to negotiate soon. About the disagreement over Jerusalem, he said, "Our view on this, as, again, the view of many administrations prior to ours, are that the issues around Jerusalem are important and they’re final status issues."
"We think that coming to the table, coming back to the table, developing the type of confidence and trust that both sides need in these proximity talks, is important to building a process to getting to those final status issues," he added.
Earlier, a source in the Obama administration told Ynet that Washington intends not to allow a resolution on core issues including Jerusalem in the UN Security Council.
This was the first administration response to the recent BBC report according to which the US is considering abstaining from a possible Security Council resolution against Israeli construction in east Jerusalem.