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Israel rejects Obama's call for building halt in East Jerusalem

Further complicating peace talks as White House envoy George Mitchell arrives in Israel today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Barack Obama's call for a building halt in East Jerusalem.

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In a letter from Obama to Alan Solow, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the President wrote that his administration is committed to "special relationship with Israel and that will not change.

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"Our countries are bound together by shared values, deep and interwoven connections, and mutual interests," he added. "Many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States and our efforts to secure peace and stability in the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests.”

But on Wednesday, US National Security Advisor James Jones said he was “disappointed” that Israelis and Palestinians have not made progress in peace talks, and that it was time “to put an end to excuses.”

Reiterating the White House’s support for a two-state solution, he also said that peace in the region – particularly between Israel and Syria – would help keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, reports Israel’s Ynet News. Mr. Jones said the settlement conflict, however, was allowing Iran to divert attention from its nuclear program, Reuters reported.

Mr. Jones also said that "in our pursuit of a two-state solution, we recognize that peace must be made by the parties and cannot be imposed from the outside." However, a recent poll showed that Palestinian support for a two-state solution is declining as Israel continues building in East Jerusalem, the Monitor reported last month.

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