POLITICS
05/20/2011 05:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Netanyahu 'Went In Worried, Came Out Encouraged' After White House Meeting, Official Says

WASHINGTON -- Benjamin Netanyahu went into the White House Friday "worried, but came out encouraged," according to a senior Israeli official briefed on the prime minister's frank meeting with President Barack Obama.

In a closed-door meeting and working lunch the Israeli leader "wanted to go on record in the presence of the president," said the official, who is not authorized to speak publicly. During the talks, which went over-schedule and lasted more than two hours, Netanyahu told Obama "what are Israel's red lines: No on refugees, no on negotiations with Hamas, and we cannot withdraw to '67 line, per se," the official added.

Netanyahu, who has now held seven meetings with Obama -- at least one of them far chillier than Friday's talks. The pair later repeated the points they'd discussed in private to reporters.

"The Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state, but certainly not in the borders of Israel," Netanyhu said in a press conference after the meeting.

He said Israel cannot negotiate with Hamas. Here Netanyahu echoed Obama, who a few minutes earlier said the Palestinian group in control of Gaza Strip "is not a partner for a significant, realistic peace process."

Netanyahu also said going back to 1967 borders, when Israel at its narrowest was nine miles wide, would be "indefensible."

The Israeli official said Netanyahu privately pressed the president for "details and explanations and clarification" on his Thursday speech, which laid out a U.S. vision for the Middle East that included finding a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. "We heard clearer language" at the White House, the official said, than Obama used at the State Department the day before.

The official spoke soon after White House spokesman Jay Carney tried to put a positive spin on the meeting.

Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to AIPAC, the American pro-Israel lobby, on Monday. He will then address Congress on Tuesday. The Israeli official said the prime minister plans to "readjust" his remarks after the White House session but said he did not know what Netanyahu might say.

The Israeli leader is widely expected to avoid making bold overtures in light of a Hamas-Fatah unity government deal, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' plan to go to the United Nations General Assembly in September to seek unilateral recognition for a state of Palestine.

"The relationship has not changed," the official said when asked to describe the tenor of the White House talks. "The meeting was cordial. Good and cordial." He added that while the two leaders "agreed to disagree on certain things," the exchange was, as Obama also put it, "constructive."

"There are different views on issues, difference on policy," the official said, "but none of it was personal."

This interactive map from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy displays the different land swap proposals under discussion.