Obama Presses Netanyahu To Cancel Ramat Shlomo Settlement Plan
The Jerusalem Post reports that it is widely believed that the US Obama administration is pressing Binyamin Netanyahu for the cancellation of the entire housing-unit project in Ramat Shlomo and to free Palestinian prisoners.
The ill timed announcement of new housing plans in East Jerusalem last week during a visit to Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden has been called an 'insult' to the US by close President Barack Obama aide David Axelrod.
Yesterday Axelrod called called the announcement "very destructive" Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has admitted that the incident was "regrettable" but has not offered any apology to the US.
Soon after the original announcement Obama administration officials issued a stream of pointed statements accusing the Israeli government of jeopardizing negotiations with the Palestinians.
Axelrod believes that Netanyahu's statement today shows that the US message had been "recieved".
Asked about Netanyahu's remarks, Axelrod said he believed the strong rebuke from Washington had sunk in. "I think the message was received," he said, although Netanyahu gave no indication the government was prepared to cancel the plan.
Netanyahu has refused however to cancel the planned settlements in East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu Said: "Israel and the US have mutual interests but we will act according to the vital interests of the state of Israel."
Many feel that an announcement to cancel or at least delay any such construction would help to iniate indirect US mediated talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu appears to be caught between mollifying Israels right wing parties, including Likud, his own party and the pressure from the US to start peace talks sooner rather than later.
The proposed building plan in East Jerusalem includes 1,600 apartments and was announced by the extremely Orthodox Sephadic party Shas, which runs the Israeli interior ministry.
Netanyahu's most recent almost apology comes after a terse telephone call from Hillary Clinton on Friday where the US annoyance was spelled out to him.
The Obama administration refused to let go of the Ramat Shlomo construction controversy Sunday, with two top aides to US President Barack Obama slamming Israel amid a growing sense in Jerusalem that Washington was using the issue to squeeze diplomatic concessions from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
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