Obama Sets Date for Netanyahu Meeting After Talks Delayed by Gaza Flotilla

U.S. president to host PM at the White House on July 6, to discuss Israel's easing of Gaza blockade.

U.S. President Barack Obama will host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting at the White House on July 6.

The two were scheduled to meet on June 1, but Netanyahu chose to cancel his visit to Washington after the Israel Navy's deadly raid on Turkish-flagged aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip a day earlier.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office
The White House

The White House on Sunday hailed Israel's easing of its land blockade of Gaza and said
Obama would discuss "additional steps" with Benjamin Netanyahu during their Washington meeting.

 "We believe that the implementation of the policy announced by the government of Israel today should improve life for the people of Gaza, and we will continue to support that effort going forward," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

Prior to the originally scheduled meeting, it was expected that Netanyahu would ask Obama for clarifications about the U.S. position on the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Review Conference participants have decided that the nuclear reactors in Dimona and Sorek should be brought under the international inspection regime.

The conclusions of its recent conference included a number of decisions that affect Israel: It called for an international conference in 2012 for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons; it called on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its nuclear installations to international inspection; and it called for the appointment of a special UN envoy on nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Obama and Netanyahu are also expected to discuss the U.S.-mediated peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Obama hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas 10 days ago at the White House, amid international criticism over Israel's raid of the Mavi Marmara and calls for it to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

One of the points that Abbas raised during the meeting is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.

Abbas told Obama that actions easing the blockade should be done with care and undertaken gradually so it will not be construed as a victory for Hamas.

The Palestinian leader also stressed that the population in the Gaza Strip must be supported, and that pressure should be brought to bear on Israel to allow more goods, humanitarian assistance and building materials for reconstruction. Abbas, however, said this added aid can be done by opening land crossings and other steps that do not include the lifting of the naval blockade.