The cabinet convened on Sunday for the first time since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from his tense visit to Washington. At the opening of the meeting, the prime minister asked to soften tone toward US President Barack Obama.
"I have been hearing inappropriate remarks in the media recently with regards to the American president and his administration. Even when there are disagreements – these are disagreements among friends, which are based on a longtime relationship and tradition," Netanyahu said.
"The Congress and the Senate expressed their strong support in Israel's position. I met Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The main issue was the effort to restart the peace process. We are trying to restart it, while still serving our interests. We made steps to reduce the gaps and are continuing in that direction." he said.
Netanyahu commented on a report by Yedioth Aharonot, in which sources close to him drew harsh criticism of the American administration and said, "President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton adapted a clear Palestinian point of view. This is a sick and insane matter; it is a catastrophic situation. We are facing a hostile administration like never before. The president wants to establish a Palestinian state and give them Jerusalem," was written in the report.
The prime minister also commented on remarks made during the Arab League Summit and said, "We continue to see a toughening of the Palestinian position; there are no signs of moderation. I do not expect these discussions and declarations to make the process any easier. However, we will maintain a restrained approach and continue our dialogue with the Americans in an effort to restart negotiations."
Netanyahu also spoke about the fatal incident on Friday at the Gaza border and offered his "deep condolences to the families of Ilan and Eliraz, who died while defending the country against terror in Gaza.
"The Peretz family lost two sons in the long-lasting battle we are fighting against Iran's terror cells. Two other sons are still serving in the Golani," the prime minister said.
"We are astounded by their mother's moral strength. The entire nation is drawing strength from such courage. Our policies are clear – we will respond fiercely against any attack on our soldiers and civilians. The Hamas and other terror organizations need to know that they carry the responsibility for each incident," Netanyahu added.
Cabinet ApprovalDuring his visit to Washington, the prime minister's advisors unsuccessfully attempted to draft an Israeli commitment document to be handed to the American president.
Netanyahu was hesitant to sign on any far-reaching commitments that might get him in trouble with his coalition partners on the Right, and decided to first present the demands to his senior ministers' forum for approval.
After the cabinet meeting concludes, Netanyahu is expected to convene the seven ministers' forum again to discuss Israel's answer to the American demands. Last Friday the forum convened in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem but the meeting ended without a conclusive decision.
National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau on Sunday morning slammed the American administration's demands and said," This government has made large concessions to launch negotiations, including the possible recognition of a Palestinian state and freezing construction. All these have been disregarded, and instead the bar kept being raised.
"We must clearly say: Jerusalem has been the City of David for the past 3,000 years," Landau added, "We don't tell the British what to do in London or the French what to do in Paris. It is inconceivable that Jews will be told where to live. The government is here to keep Jerusalem united. We've had disputes with the US in the past, but when you keep making concessions – the demands will only grow."
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan commented on the upcoming forum's meeting and said that he does not think the prime minister will change the government's stance on the debated topics.
"I hope this decision will also be reached in the seven ministers' forum and will be made clear to the Americans. On Passover eve, the festival of freedom, the Americans must be told that this is Israel's policy," Erdan said.