Senior Adviser David Axelrod said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the lack of pomp and circumstance normally accompanying a visit from a head of government should not be misinterpreted.
"This was not about form, this was not a ceremonial meeting; this was a working meeting among friends," Axelrod said. "So there was no snub intended.
"Look, Israel is a close, dear and valued friend of the U.S., a great ally. That is an unshakable bond. But sometimes part of friendship is expressing yourself bluntly."
Things got testy during the Tuesday visit, reports suggested.
Israeli media reported Obama walked out of his meeting with Netanyahu for a private dinner. The Times of London quoted an unnamed congressman as saying Obama left the prime minister at the White House and said he could consult with the president's delegation and "let me know if there's anything new."
"It was awful," the congressman told the newspaper.
The Obama administration has harshly criticized Israel for its plans to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, saying that would make it harder to pave the way for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
But Sunday Axelrod seemed more upbeat.
"We think we're doing it in the appropriate way," he said, "And I'm confident that we will make progress. But we're going to make it by being blunt and straightforward, as allies are, and use the channel, the appropriate channels. … We have an abiding interest in the long-term security of Israel and the region. And we're going to do what we can to provide leadership in that direction."