Rare strain in US-Israel ties

Insulted Washington scrambles to save talks with Palestinians

Rare strain in US-Israel ties

A US official predicted “a dicey period here in the next couple of weeks” as Palestinians demanded the reversal of a new Israeli settlement plan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, which includes pro-settler parties, reacts to unusually blunt criticism from Washington.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Israel’s behaviour “insulting” after it approved 1,600 new homes last week at a settlement in the Jerusalem area on the very day Vice President Joe Biden was there to set a seal on relaunched negotiations.
Biden said on Friday he believed Netanyahu was sincere in seeking a deal to give the Palestinians a state and that the premier understood that Israel had “no alternative”.
Though Hillary stressed that Washington’s ties with the Jewish state were “durable and strong”, she had told Netanyahu that he must act to repair ties and show his commitment to an alliance which, she reminded him, was key to Israel’s security in a hostile region.

While accepting that Netanyahu was taken by surprise by the settlement housing approval granted on Tuesday by his interior ministry, which is run by the pro-settler religious Shas party, Hillary said the prime minister was still responsible for it. Her spokesman said she told him it was a “deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship... and had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process”.

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