Israeli PM meets Obama

US president likely to press Netanyahu to endorse independent Palestinian state.

    Israel is one of the United States' long-time allies in the Middle East [AFP]

    Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said the meeting is expected to set the tone for future contacts between the two leaders, who are meeting for the first time since both took office earlier this year.

    "Obviously the question of the two-state solution and any overt commitment from Netanyahu is very sensitive because this is something that the Obama administration has been very keen to press."

    Netanyahu will tell Obama not to push too hard on the issue at this time because the Israeli leader has his own domestic political considerations, she said.

    "Neither side wants an explosion, they don't want a crisis. They want this first meeting to pass over smoothly."

    Differences on Iran

    Rowland said Netanyahu will also raise the subject of Iran's nuclear programme, with an attempt to convince Obama to see Iran from Israel's point of view.

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    "He will argue [that] Iran is not only a threat to Israel but threatens the whole of the region and even the wider world.

    "There will also be a veiled threat that if the international community, lead by America, does not do something about Iran, then Israel will be prepared - if pushed into a corner - to carry out unilateral action against Iran."

    Netanyahu is expected to tell Obama that Iran is a more pressing issue than peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

    Israel is thought to be uneasy over Obama's talk of diplomatic engagement with Tehran and has refused to rule out military strikes if it fails.

    Israel and Western nations remain concerned that Tehran's uranium enrichment programme is geared towards the building of a nuclear warhead, but Tehran says it is aimed at meeting civilian energy needs.

    New settlement

    The meeting in Washington DC comes amid reports that Israel is moving ahead with construction on a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank, despite US calls for Israel to halt settlement activity.

    Israeli authorities have issued tenders for housing units in the Maskiot settlement and contractors have arrived on site.

    The US has called on Israel to halt settlement activity in the occupied West Bank 
    David Elhaiini, a local Israeli government official, said the timing of the construction was not intended to make a political point as it was initially approved in 2008 by Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, the Associated Press news agency reported.

    Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah, said the settlement will be in the northern Jordan valley on the east side of the occupied West Bank.

    "This is the first time in nearly 30 years that Israel announces the construction of an entirely new settlement," she said.

    "Usually what we see are caravans that become outposts that later translate into an expansion of an already existing settlement.

    "This announcement has outraged Palestinians and Israeli peace activists alike who are now saying this proves that Binyamin Netanyahu is not committed to the two-state solution.

    "The Palestinians officially have made very similar statements, saying this is actually a very defiant move that should be confronted by the Americans."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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