After telling Netanyahu he did not want to run, Biden tweeted how such a photograph could have been staged
Joe Biden thought he’d got away with it. As the US vice-president approached the meeting between Barack Obama and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office, he was in no doubt about the phrase that would best describe the optics of the encounter: standoffish.
Just hours after an expected Israeli announcement that was a step closer to advancing its plan to establish settlements on occupied territory, Netanyahu seized on Biden’s remark that such an announcement could cause “severe damage” to US-Israeli relations.
“To demonstrate the importance I place on this meeting, I cannot and will not allow this to happen,” Biden said at a news conference.
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The response effectively gave Israel permission to announce the status of the planned construction at any time without any political rebuke from the White House. Netanyahu also reminded Biden that the announcement was to take place a day before he arrived in Washington and had to be put off.
But in a follow-up tweet, Biden suggested that if Netanyahu hadn’t staged the entire meeting, as he had in relation to the settlement announcement, the meeting could have had an interesting interaction.
“My last lines in POTUS’s Oval meeting with Bibi were focused on whether there was time for a broader statement. Netanyahu (nicely) suggested there was not,” Biden wrote.
The implication, then, that he himself had been ready to grab Netanyahu by the lapels and give him an enforced, spotless handshake, either with a fully maskless hand, or at least one containing a natural facial tissue, rather than merely the mask.