Israeli media dresses down Netanyahu's Washington trip

20:53, March 25, 2010      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to conduct an urgent meeting with his senior cabinet ministers just two hours after his return from Washington on Thursday.

The premier was in the United States principally to address the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. However, he took the opportunity to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Washington's refusal to allow the media to cover the White House meeting and the failure to publish a press statement afterwards has had tongues wagging back in Israel.

The fact that there was no white smoke in a follow-up meeting between Netanyahu and U.S. special envoy George Mitchell has added to the speculation that Netanyahu's trip not only did no good but perhaps even deepened the mistrust between the Israeli and American administrations.

NEGATIVE HEADLINES

"Netanyahu leaves U.S. disgraced, isolated and weaker," " Relations in crisis" and "Obama dresses down Netanyahu" were among the choice words the Israeli headline writers put into print on Thursday morning. The opinion and editorial writers similarly suggested the trip was at best a waste of time.

"Instead of a reception as a guest of honor, Netanyahu was treated as a problem child, an army private ordered to do laps around the base for slipping up at roll call," wrote Aluf Benn in local daily Ha'aretz.

Likewise on the radio, the reporters who accompanied Netanyahu on his trip pointed to no real sign of a breakthrough in differences over resuming the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

While the current spat is over Israeli housing plans for East Jerusalem, the tension between Obama and Netanyahu has been almost palpable since both men entered their respective offices about a year ago.

Supposedly, Netanyahu dug in his feet this week and told the Obama team in numerous meetings that he was not prepared to budge when it comes to construction in Jerusalem. Israel deems the city to be its "united, indivisible capital."

However, the international community has other thoughts on the matter. Ever since the 1967 Middle East war when Israel wrestled control of the eastern section of Jerusalem from Jordan, the rest of the world has considered the area to be occupied territory. The Palestinians see it as the location of the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Reportedly, Netanyahu is prepared to accede to two demands made by Obama: that Israel make some goodwill gestures towards the Palestinians and that the indirect talks slated to begin imminently focus on the substantive issues and are not just talks about talks.

When it comes to the Jerusalem issue, though, Netanyahu has drawn a bold red line.


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