05/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama-Netanyahu Meeting At White House Closed To Reporters

(AP) WASHINGTON - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is criss-crossing the Washington power grid Tuesday, striving to explain his country's position in a widening debate over its plans to construct new housing in east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu had a Capitol Hill meeting scheduled with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a day after holding talks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. He plans to meet later Tuesday at the White House with President Barack Obama.

Netanyahu has been trying to deflect U.S. criticism of his government's announcement of plans for 1,600 housing units in a part of Jerusalem that Palestinians claim as their own. He bluntly asserted before the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday that "Jerusalem is not a settlement. It's our capital."

The plan has drawn sharp criticism from the Obama administration. Clinton told a pro-Israel audience Monday that provocative Israeli land policies in areas claimed by the Palestinians are not in Israel's long-term interests and undermine U.S. credibility as a mediator in the Mideast peace process.

Obama has remained out of the fray as Clinton and other U.S. officials have rebuked Israel for its announcement of new construction in east Jerusalem, which came while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country. The announcement embarrassed Biden, a staunch supporter of Israel, and led to new stress in relations between Washington and its top Middle Eastern ally.

Obama agreed to see Netanyahu on Tuesday at the White House -- Obama's first meeting with the Israeli leader since the severe diplomatic breach. But the meeting will be closed to reporters, an unusual choice when hosting a close ally and a sign that suggested the rift may not be entirely healed.