Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US President Barack Obama shake hands during a joint press conference at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013, on the first day of Obama's three day trip to Israel. AFP photo
U.S. President Barack Obama urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
to take steps to end the diplomatic crisis between Israel
and Turkey during their meeting, Haaretz daily reported March 21. Obama, who is currently making his first visit to Israel
and the West Bank, touched on the issue of the strained relations between the two countries, a senior White House official who requested anonymity told the Israeli paper.
According to Haaretz, the official said the president "urged the Israeli government to work toward normalization of ties between the two countries," making it clear that the U.S. valued strong friendships with both Israel
Diplomatic relations between the two had been downgraded after nine Turkish nationals were killed on board the Mavi Marmara ship, which was part of an aid flotilla attempting to break the naval blockade of Gaza. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's remarks last month in which he called Zionism a crime against humanity received strong reactions in Israel
and added a new row to the already strained relations
"Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity," Erdoğan said at a United Nations conference in Vienna. He has stood behind his words, adding that he would continue to criticize Israel
as long as it did not recognize the existence of the Palestinian state.