Saturday, March 13, 2010

PM Netanyahu surprised by the U.S. admin. public condemnation - "I thought apology to Biden was sufficient"

(Haaretz).PM Netanyahu on Saturday said he was surprised by the U.S.administration's public condemnation of his government over the building plan in East Jerusalem.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said the crisis appeared to be orchestrated by the U.S. administration, as Netanyahu apologized to U.S. Vice President Biden and believed that the crisis was behind the two allies.

Meanwhile, officials in Washington have admitted that the latest row between Israel and the US, over the Jerusalem construction plans, amounts to a crisis.

As intense contacts with Washington continue, senior Israeli officials estimated that the crisis holds "strategic significance" and is being fanned by senior US officials and by the fury of President Barack Obama himself.

Netanyahu on Saturday evening convened a meeting of the forum of seven cabinet ministers to discuss the diplomatic tension with the Obama administration, and is expected to issue a formal statement about the matter at the start of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting.

The prime minister has repeatedly said he was unaware of the East Jerusalem construction plan.

Netanyahu spoke with Clinton over the weekend in what was later described to reporters as a 45-minute conversation in which the premier mostly remained quiet and listened to Clinton's scathing criticism.

Netanyahu on Friday also called European officials including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian President Silvio Berlusconi to discuss the crisis with the U.S.

"This was an embarrassing incident," Netanyahu told the European leaders. "I admit that and I am sorry, and I even apologized to Vice President Biden, but I was not in any way aware of the building plan ahead of the announcement."

Netanyahu also discussed Israeli construction in East Jerusalem with the two leaders, saying, "This government's policy regarding building in East Jerusalem is no different than that of any other government."

He added, "In all negotiations conducted up until now, Israel has clarified for the Palestinians and the U.S. that these neighborhoods are part of the Jerusalem bloc that will remain in Israeli hands in any final-status agreement."

Netanyahu also told Merkel and Berlusconi that regulations would be implemented to avoid such embarrassments in the future.