Netanyahu says Israel won't budge on building in East Jerusalem
After returning from a contentious visit to the White House, Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would not compromise on building in East Jerusalem. But many observers say he will have to move away from coalition partners who advocate a hard line.
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Trouble with the US = trouble at the ballot box
Israeli prime ministers who have gotten into hot water with the US have been spurned at the ballot box, including Netanyahu after his first term in office.Skip to next paragraph
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The US is upset about Israel's announcement of a 1,600-home building project in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which upended Vice President Joe Biden's visit two weeks ago and made the Palestinians balk about a new peace initiative. It is concerned that future such plans will undermine peace talks.
Netanyahu has asserted that the land, annexed after the 1967 Arab Israeli war, is part of Israel's capital.
The Israeli prime minister came home to a lambasting in the press, which called his visit to the US a resounding failure and blamed him for not anticipating the cold reception at the White House.
Indeed, Netanyahu's visit was shrouded in a public relations blackout, with no joint photos and no joint statements as is usually customary when Israeli leaders visits. It was widely reported in the Israel press that Obama took a break from the meeting, leaving Netanyahu and advisers alone to discuss a response to the US demands.
The prime minister's refusal to offer concessions on the peace process could undermine the campaign to block Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, says Ephriam Sneh, a former parliament member from the Labor Party, which is the dovish member of Netanyahu's coalition.
If the crisis with the US endures, pressure within the Labor Party could mount on leader Ehud Barak, currently the defense minister, to withdraw from the coalition. But Mr. Barak is unlikely to withdraw because he wields greater influence as defense minister than he does as the leader of the second-largest party on the parliamentary opposition.
The prime minister said last week he'll agree to confidence-building measures in the West Bank, but that did not satisfy the administration. It is unclear how partners like Foreign Minister Lieberman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai would react to more far-reaching concessions. A minority of experts have said Netanyahu has more leverage than expected because his coalition partners are not eager to sit in the opposition.
Netanyahu could offer the US a "symbolic'' concession, such as freezing Jewish building projects in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, but little more, says Avraham Diskin, a professor of political science at Hebrew University. Reflecting the prevailing political analysts, Diskin said the prime minister will be hard pressed to win approval of coalition allies.