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Ministers arrive at Prime Minister's Office
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Netanyahu, Barak at White House on Tuesday
Photo: AFP
Cabinet meeting ends with no decision on US demands
Prime Minister Netanyahu, his six senior ministers try to come up with creative solution on east Jerusalem, Gaza siege. Meeting ends with no conclusions, forum to reconvene next week
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday convened his top seven ministers in an effort to form an accepted Israeli policy on American demands for an outline which would allow a dialogue with the Palestinians. The meeting ended without any decisions, and another meeting is slated to take place next week. No official statement was made at the end of the meeting.

 

At this stage, there are no agreements between Israel and the White House as to a series of demands, including the demand for a construction freeze in Jerusalem and an ease of restrictions in the Gaza Strip.

 

The seven-minister forum is comprised of four hawkish right-wing members – Benny Begin, Moshe Yaalon, Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai – who say that "Jerusalem is not negotiable".

 

Begin, based on his past statements, believes that Israel must continue building in the West Bank, and definitely in east Jerusalem. Yaalon believes there is no point in proximity talks with the Palestinians at this stage.

 

The more moderate ministers are led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is considered by the Americans as the responsible adult in the government. His status has grown stronger in the eyes of the United States following his meetings this week with senior administration officials.

 

Barak believes Israel must avoid a crisis with the Americans and must make additional gestures, although not in Jerusalem, in order to rebuild trust with its ally.


Minister Dan Meridor (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

 

The ministers' meeting lasted until one hour before Shabbat enters. As each of the American demands requires a thorough discussion, the forum will likely reconvene after Sunday's cabinet meeting.

 

Sources close to the prime minister estimated that the US would have to wait for the Israeli response until after the holiday of Passover, which begins Monday.

 

Following the failed attempt to draft an accepted document before Netanyahu left Washington on Wednesday, it appears Israel will not hand the US a written commitment. The diplomatic definition for such a formula is a "non-paper", which means that Israel will convey its insights on each of the demands verbally.

 

The dialogue between the countries is being held in a concrete and relatively relaxed manner, as both the US and Israel realize that a rift between them will not serve their interests.

 

The Americans are seeking a diplomatic achievement on the backdrop of their difficult foreign policy, while Israel is not seeking a crisis and rift due to its dependence on the US.

 


First published: 26.03.10, 13:53
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