Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making his way back to Israel after failing
to reach an agreement with the White House that would advance the launching of so-called proximity talks with the Palestinians.
Meanwhile in Israel,
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said Netanyahu should be praised for insisting on Israel's interests with the US administration. "We are not a leftist government, and construction in Jerusalem is part of the consensus – it is the capital of the people of Israel," Hershkowitz said.
"We do not want to fight with our great friend, but our responsibility is towards the people of Israel. We are an independent state and not an American dependant. We must avoid a situation whereby we close down the Knesset and government, hand (US President Barack) Obama the keys and allow him to tell us what to do," he said.
"If the Americans will realize that the Israeli government has red lines - they will respect that," he said.
Other ministers echoed Hershkowitz's call.
Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said regarding the diplomatic dispute with Washington that "there are differences of opinion that touch upon the root of the issue, but it is important to remember that there is a wide base of friendship and cooperation between Israel and the US."
"We must do everything possible to reach an agreement, but the Americans also need to understand that if the pressure continues to be one-sided it won't contribute, and may even lead to an opposite effect – aka boomerang," Shalom added.
Sources close to right-wing cabinet members said that before Netanyahu left for Washington he was told to take a tough stance on Jewish construction in east Jerusalem even at the risk of a full-blown crisis.
According to one source, Netanyahu was told that Israel must make it clear to the US that the issue of Jerusalem is nonnegotiable.
"If the Americans insist, then they can break down the negotiations," one minister was quoted as saying.
A senior minister's aide said, "Are we negotiating with the US or with the Palestinian Authority? Any withdrawal from the cabinet's position will be considered a starting point by the Americans and Palestinians."
During talks with senior American officials in Washington overnight Thursday (Israel time), Netanyahu's advisers apparently failed to draft a document specifying Israel's commitments vis-à-vis the peace process. The PM rejected the idea of issuing a joint US-Israeli statement on the understandings reached during the talks before seeking the approval of the forum of seven ministers.
The forum is expected to convene Thursday evening - after Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak return to Israel - to discuss the American demands, which include a flexible Israeli position regarding a construction moratorium in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as an Israeli commitment to discuss the core issues during talks with the Palestinians and to setting a timetable for the launching of direct negotiations.
Meanwhile, Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) said an emergency national government with Kadima should be established in order to "stave off the demand to freeze construction and divide Jerusalem in light of President Obama's unfair pressure."
Orlev added that such a government would also help unite the world against the Iranian nuclear threat.
Amnon Meranda contributed to the report