U.S. President Barack Obama held an impromptu meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak Monday, during which Obama affirmed his country’s “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.”
Barak is to meet Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
According to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, Obama “dropped by” a meeting Monday morning between Barak and U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones.
Obama also reasserted his administration’s determination to achieve regional peace, “including a two-state solution with a secure Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with a viable and independent Palestinian state.”
Gibbs also said Obama and Barak discussed challenges to regional security and how to deal with threats faced both by Israel and the United States.
The U.S. administration responded cautiously to the Israeli announcement of a construction freeze in East Jerusalem.
“We have asked both sides to take steps to rebuild trust and to create momentum so that we can see advances in the peace process,” a State Department spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Jones apologized publicly for telling a Jewish joke last week at an event in Washington.
“I wish that I had not made this off-the-cuff joke at the top of my remarks,” Jones said.