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Barack Meets With Barak

(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
President Obama held a surprise meeting with Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak today at the White House, the Associated Press reports. Also present was the president's national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones.

It is not known what was discussed during the closed-door meeting, which comes shortly before the president departs for the Middle East this evening. The president's call for Israel to freeze settlements has been rebuffed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who says doing so "would not be reasonable."

The president's speech in Cairo, which takes place Thursday following a visit to Saudi Arabia, will be closely watched in Israel. The president is seeking a "reboot" of the U.S. relationship with the Muslim world, which, combined with his overtures toward Iran, has prompted concern among some in Israel.

The president calls the country a "stalwart ally" but also said in an interview with National Public Radio this week that "there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be [with Israel] about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory in the region is profoundly negative."

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