03/23/2010, 00.00
US-ISRAEL-PALESTINE
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Netanyahu’s no to U.S. demands to halt settlements in East Jerusalem

Meeting today with Obama. The Israeli prime minister spoke yesterday evening at the most important Israeli lobby in the United States and stressed the "threat" of Iran, calling for action by the international community and reiterated his country's right to self-defence.

Washington (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Benjamin Netanyahu will not give in to pressure from the Obama administration to stop new construction in the Arab part of Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is not a settlement, it is our capital," he said yesterday, adding that all Israeli governments, to the right or left, since 1967, when the city was completely taken over by the Jewish state, have allowed expansion. "The Jewish people - he said - built Jerusalem 3 thousand years ago and continue to build it today."  

The Israeli premier arrived yesterday in the United States for a three-day visit, seen as an opportunity to mend the breach in relations with Washington created by the go-ahead to build 1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo (pictured) a settlement on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, given during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel.

Netanyahu, whom the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked to make "difficult but necessary" choices to restart the peace process, last night addressed a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main pro-Israel lobby in the United States.  

In his 75 minute long speech, the Israeli prime minister on the one hand stressed his country's friendship with the Americans and the trust placed in them, while on the other he focused attention on the "threat" of Iran, calling for a significant intervention by the international community. Israel, he said, "expects the international community to act quickly and decisively" to stop the Iranian nuclear threat and "reserves the right to defend ourselves."

In his U.S. visit, Netanyahu will see Obama today and yesterday had a meeting with Clinton. In this regard, the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley said that the two politicians "have had a discussion about specific actions that can be taken to improve the climate", without giving further details.  

Netanyahu said yesterday he was convinced that the new construction in Jerusalem "does not preclude the two-state solution," adding that Israel wants the Palestinians to be "our neighbors, who live in freedom" and demanded the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, return to the negotiating table.  

Today's meeting with President Obama should emphasize if - and how - the current Israeli government is ready to take concrete steps to revive the peace process, unchanged since 2008.

The substantial refusal by Netanyahu to American demands to stop the settlements, according to some observers may actually be motivated by a plan of the Israeli prime minister to undermine the general foreign policy of Barack Obama, while in the U.S. half term elections approach, with the aim of sidelining the Palestinian issue and returning instead to the heart of the Middle Eastern issue, the "Iranian threat", as happened during the Bush presidency

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