Obama "shocked" as Wiesel charges $250,000 for lunch at White House: "But I spoke to him about the Holocaust," an angry Wiesel retorted.

May 6, 2010

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said after lunching with President Barack Obama Tuesday that recent tensions between Washington and the Israeli government were “gone.”

Wiesel, a staunch supporter of Israel, said he enjoyed a “good Kosher lunch” with Obama, who has frequently praised his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner and joined him at the former Buchenwald Nazi camp in Germany last year.

Last month, Wiesel put his name to a newspaper advertisement criticizing the US administration for pressuring the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Jewish settlement building in annexed East Jerusalem.

“Pressure will not produce a solution,” Wiesel wrote in the ad. “Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul.”

But asked Tuesday whether the situation had improved, Wiesel told reporters outside the White House that he believed that ties between Israel and the Obama administration were now “good.”

“There were moments of tension,” Wiesel said. “The tension I think is gone.”

Wiesel spoke to reporters outside the same West Wing of the White House in which Obama and Netanyahu were involved in a rare spat between leaders of their two nations in March over Israeli settlements.

The lunch took place as the pace quickened in US diplomatic efforts to broker Middle East peace talks.

US envoy George Mitchell was back in the region in his latest bid to restart indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations stalled by a the row over settlements.

Obama called Netanyahu on Monday to press home the urgent need for fresh talks with the Palestinians.