Sunday, March 14, 2010

Henry Clinton :Israel - US ties at risk

Sunday 14 March :Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday that his government was putting US ties at risk by failing to take real steps towards renewed MidEast peace talks.Clinton telephoned Netanyahu and expressed frustration over Israel's announcement on Tuesday of new settlement construction, a move that deeply embarrassed visiting US Vice President Joe Biden and cast doubt over plans to launch indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.State Department spokesman P J Crowley said Clinton told Netanyahu the announcement was a ''deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship ... and had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process.''
''The secretary said she could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States' strong commitment to Israel's security,'' Crowley said.
''She made clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process,'' he said.Asked if the tone of the call was angry, Crowley said ''frustration would be a better term.''
Clinton's rebuke of Netanyahu capped a week of tense exchanges between the United States and Israel, which on Tuesday announced it was building 1,600 new settler homes in an area of the occupied West Bank it annexed to Jerusalem.

The announcement infuriated the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership, which threatened to pull out of U.S.-brokered indirect ''proximity'' talks with Israel that Washington hoped would be the first step towards relaunching full peace negotiations after more than a year.
Monday 15 March, 2010.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a probe into why officials announced plans for constructing new housing units in East Jerusalem during US Vice-president Joe Biden's visit, putting bilateral relations under strain.

Netanyahu said that he had appointed a committee to investigate the events leading up to the decision to ensure that no such thing happens again.
Describing the announcement during Biden's visit as "destructive", he said that the move, which evoked sharp criticism from close ally, the US, "should not have happened."Stressing the importance of Israel's relations with the US, the prime minister told a weekly cabinet meeting late on Saturday that the relations between the two countries has been strained as a result of the incident.

The US had criticised Israel's announcement on last Tuesday to construct 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem while Biden was visiting the country to revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The announcement has embarrassed the US vice-president and overshadowed his visit.
The probe team will be headed by Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office, Eyal Gabai, and will include members of the Interior Ministry, Housing Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality, sources in the PMO said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has condemned the Israeli plans of building new settlements in East Jerusalem. In a statement in New York, he said construction of these settlements is illegal which undermines any movement towards a viable peace process in the Middle East. The UN chief said the world body has lodged a protest with the Israeli government and it is also advising the Palestinian leadership to forge ahead with indirect negotiations for resolving the Middle East dispute. The move has also been condemned by the international community including the European Union, the Arab League and the United States.

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