The snub marked a fresh low in US-Israeli relations and appeared designed to show Mr Netanyahu how low his stock had fallen in Washington after he refused to back down in a row over Jewish construction in east Jerusalem.
|File picture: Bibi Netanyahu and Barack Obama|
The Israeli prime minister arrived at the White House on Tuesday evening brimming with confidence that the worst of the crisis in his countryâ€™s relationship with the United States was over.
Over the previous two days, he had been feted by senior Republicans and greeted warmly by members of Congress. He had also received a standing ovation from the American Israel Public Affairs Affairs Committee, one of the most influential lobby groups in the United States.
But Mr. Obama was less inclined to be so conciliatory. He immediately presented Mr. Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Key among those demands was a previously-made call to halt all new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.
When the Israeli prime minister stalled, Mr. Obama rose from his seat declaring: â€œIâ€™m going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls.â€
As he left, Mr. Netanyahu was told to consider the error of his ways. â€œIâ€™m still around,â€ Mr. Obama is quoted by Israelâ€™s Yediot Ahronot newspaper as having said. â€œLet me know if there is anything new.â€
For over an hour, Mr. Netanyahu and his aides closeted themselves in the Roosevelt Room on the first floor of the White House to map out a response to the presidentâ€™s demands.
Although the two men then met again, at 8.20 pm, for a brief second meeting, it appeared that they failed to break the impasse. White House officials were quoted as saying that disagreements remained. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, added: â€œApparently they did not reach an understanding with the United States.â€
It was the second time this month that Mr Netanyahu has been at the receiving end of a US dinner-time snub.
A fortnight ago, Joe Biden the US vice president, arrived 90 minutes late for a dinner Mr. Netanyahu hosted in Jerusalem after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in the cityâ€™s predominantly Arab east.
Erupting in fury, the United States described the decision to expand Ramat Shlomo as an â€œinsultâ€ that undermined Mr. Bidenâ€™s peace making efforts and demanded that it be reversed. Palestinians see east Jerusalem, captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, as their future capital and regard any Jewish building there as a barrier to a peace settlement.
Mr Obamaâ€™s mood further soured in the minutes before his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu after it emerged that approval had been given for an even more contentious Jewish building project in the heart of one of east Jerusalemâ€™s Palestinian suburbs.
Sending a clear message of his displeasure, Mr. Obama treated his guest to a series of slights. Photographs of the meeting were forbidden and an Israeli request to issue a joint-statement once it was over were turned down.
â€œThere is no humiliation exercise that the Americans did not try on the prime minister and his entourage,â€ Israelâ€™s Maariv newspaper reported. â€œBibi received in the White House the treatment reserved for the president of Equatorial Guinea.â€
It is not the first time that Mr. Netanyahu has been involved in a dinner-time snub, although he is arguably more used to delivering, rather than receiving, them.
In 1998, during his first term as Israeli prime minister, Mr. Netanyahy angrily cancelled a dinner he was due to give with the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook.
Mr. Cook had earned his hostâ€™s ire after he briefly visited a new Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem with a Palestinian official and called for an end to all settlement construction in the parts of the city Israel occupied after the Six-Day war.