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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Israeli PM To U.S.: We Will Not Stop Building Settlements

JERUSALEM — Israel will not restrict construction in east Jerusalem, Israel's prime minister said Sunday hours before he left for Washington, despite a clear U.S. demand that building there must stop and a crisis in relations between the two longtime allies.
Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with President Barack Obama Tuesday will be the first high-level meeting since the crisis erupted 10 days ago, when Israel embarrassed visiting Vice President Joe Biden by announcing a plan for construction in a Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem, which is claimed by the Palestinians.
"As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv" and there would be no restrictions, Netanyahu told his Cabinet.
This tough stance on Jerusalem has run into stiff opposition in Washington, but there were signs that Israel was working to ease the crisis. Cabinet ministers said that while there would be no formal freeze, construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem would be restricted, like Netanyahu's partial 10-month West Bank construction freeze.
At stake are the first peace contacts between Israel and the Palestinian government in more than a year.


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