Barak: U.S. ties are 'pillar and cornerstone' of Israel's security
Axelrod: Obama did not snub Netanyahu in Israel-U.S. talks; Netanyahu: Meet was not 'greatest disaster'.
Israel views its relations with the United States as the "pillar and cornerstone" of the nation's security, Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared on Sunday.
Barak told reporters at a defense briefing that Israel was determined to preserve its close alliance with the United States.
"Only we have the exclusive responsibility when it comes to the fate and security of Israel, and only we can determine the matters pertaining to the fate of Israel and the Jewish people, but we must never lose sight of how important these relations are, or the ability to act in harmony and unity with the United States," Barak said.
The defense minister added that the United States under President Barack Obama was continuing with that country's historical efforts to protect Israel's security and to offer military assistance.
Barak termed the recent diplomatic crisis "a disagreement among friends" and emphasized that it was "crucial to remember that the United States is friendly to Israel in a deep and substantial way."
Axelrod: Obama did not snub Netanyahu in Israel-U.S. talks
Earlier Sunday, a top aide to the U.S. leader said that Obama did not give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the cold shoulder when they two met in the White House last week.
Obama hosted Netanyahu for official talks last Tuesday but did not dine with his visitor and, by keeping the talks closed to the media, also denied Netanyahu the courtesy of a photo-opportunity with him.
This raised questions in blogs and at White House news briefings that it was a deliberately calibrated gesture by the administration to communicate its displeasure with Netanyahu over Israeli housing construction in East Jerusalem, which have stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians in the form of U.S-mediated indirect talks.
"This was a working meeting among friends. And so there was no snub intended," White House senior adviser David Axelrod told CNN's State of the Union news program.
Axelrod noted that the two leaders had met in private for two hours and had better things to do with their time than worry about protocol.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said prior to the leaders' meeting that Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and the disputed West Bank undermines mutual trust.
Axelrod told CNN on Sunday: "This was not about formalities. This was not about a ceremonial meeting. This was a working meeting. We have a deep, abiding interest in Israel's security. And we believe the peace process is essential to that. And we are doing everything we can to move that process forward."
Netanyahu: Meet with Obama was not 'disaster'
Netanyahu on Sunday also rejected a description of U.S. President Barack Obama as a "disaster" for Israel, a phrase the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper attributed to an anonymous confidant of the premier.
Besides defending Obama, Netanyahu tried to play down tension with Washington over Israeli settlement policy, telling his cabinet that Israel and the United States were "allies and friends".
A statement issued by Netanyahu's office said: "The prime minister emphatically rejects the anonymous quotes about President Obama that a newspaper attributed to one of his confidants, and he condemns them."
To his cabinet, Netanyahu said: "I want to say clearly, these comments are unacceptable to me. They do not come from anyone representing me," he told his cabinet in public remarks.
"The relations between Israel and the United States are those of allies and friends, and are based on tradition spanning many years," he said.
Meanwhile, Axelorod told CNN in his interview on Sunday that U.S. was making progress in its efforts to find allies to hold the line on Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Axelrod told CNN that at the start of the Obama administration, Iran was united while the world was divided on how best to deal with Iran.
The situation is now reversed, he said, as the world is coming together while Iran itself is divided.
Axelrod added that he was pleased with the cooperation that the Russians have offered and believes Moscow would support fresh penalties against Tehran.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday that punishing Iran even more because of its nuclear program is not the best option, but that step can't be excluded.