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Netanyahu. Wil concessions suffice? Photo: Lior Mizrachi
Netanyahu. Wil concessions suffice? Photo: Lior Mizrachi
 
Mitchell and Clinton, on Friday Photo: AFP
Mitchell and Clinton, on Friday Photo: AFP
 
 

Netanyahu to meet Obama in Washington

Fox News reports prime minister will meet US president on sidelines of AIPAC convention. Netanyahu also set to meet Clinton, offer to slow down Jewish housing projects in areas beyond Green Line

Roni Sofer
Published: 03.19.10, 16:25 / Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama Tuesday in Washington, Fox News reported Friday. The report has not yet been confirmed by official US or Israeli sources.

 

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In recent days Israel has made efforts to ensure that the two meet, following the diplomatic turmoil that ensued after construction plans were announced for east Jerusalem during a visit by the vice president.

 

Details of the understandings reached between Israel and the United States over the building plans are slowly becoming clear. It seems Netanyahu will slow down planning of Jewish housing projects and construction tenders in areas beyond the Green Line.

 

Netanyahu, who promised US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday 'trust-building' measures, will oversee the new restrictions himself, in an attempt to prevent another dispute with the White House and allow proximity talks with Palestinians to take place upon US Special Envoy George Mitcell's visit on Sunday.

 

But an official at the Prime Minister's Office said the trust-building measures would not include Jerusalem. "His policy is flexibility, but not in Jerusalem," the official said.

 

He added that the prime minister had "handled the crisis with the US with restraint, composure, and responsibility".

 

Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Washington early this week in order to speak before the annual AIPAC convention. Clinton is also scheduled to speak at the convention.

 

The Interior and Housing Ministries have in the works some 50-70 projects for the construction of governmental and private housing units in Jerusalem's periphery Jewish neighborhoods.

 

Some of these projects are in their preliminary execution steps while others, such as the controversial Ramat Shlomo projects, which stirred havoc during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel, are in the planning stages and will most likely be stalled following the recent crisis with the White House.

 

PM between rock, hardspot

Netanyahu has not issued any statements vis-à-vis the possible agreements reached with the US. If he would have announced a full freeze of Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, he would have risked breaking up his coalition – and if he would have said construction would continue as scheduled, he would been place under scrutiny once more.

 

Therefore, the prime minister kept a vague language during his half hour telephone conversation with Clinton on Thursday. The formula was agreed upon in prior conversations between Jerusalem and Washington officials; now, Netanyahu's men can claim the prime minister did not fold under US pressure, but at the same time promise the Palestinians that construction in Jerusalem will be stopped almost completely.

 

As of Friday morning, there was no official confirmation of Netanyahu and Clinton's meeting next week, however the secretary of state said during the Quartet meeting that she expects to meet Netanyahu in the White House.

 

The prime minister on Friday cleared his schedule in order to prepare a speech he will carry in front of AIPAC representatives in Washington on Monday. Sources close to Netanyahu said it was expected to be a "strong speech", but refused to give out further details.

 

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