RAMALLAH, March 24 (JMCC) - US officials continue to press Israel to retract new settlement construction in Jerusalem, reports the Washington Post
With Israeli officials saying that construction on a contentious Jewish housing project in East Jerusalem could begin at any time, President Obama pressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to give a written commitment to rein in any further building and to move ahead on peace talks with the Palestinians.
Israeli and American negotiators huddled in Washington for a second straight day, after two sessions at the White House on Tuesday night ended in an impasse.
Mr. Netanyahu continued to balk at American demands that he find a way to reverse another East Jerusalem housing plan: the one in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood that was announced during Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s trip to Israel this month, igniting a diplomatic storm.
The Obama administration also wants Mr. Netanyahu to allow scheduled negotiations with the Palestinians to focus on substantive issues like borders and security.
US officials told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
in their night Tuesday meeting that they will be waiting to see how he implements proposed confidence-building measures, reported Haaretz
The Israeli premier met with US president Barack Obama in Washington twice on Tuesday, says
the Washington Post. Apparently Netanyahu requested the second meeting after a discussion with Obama aides.
An American source close to the administration said that Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have decided to test Netanyahu and see whether he will carry out his promised gestures of good will toward the Palestinians.
According to an Israeli source who has discussed the matter with senior US officials, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the president are dissatisfied with a letter given to them by Netanyahu, in which he detailed steps he is willing to take to restore American confidence in his government.
The demand for follow-up on Netanyahu's promises is in line with Palestinian insistence on a monitoring mechanism to assure that the Israeli government
Reportedly, the US administration insists that Israel cancel a decision to build 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a settlement in the area of Jerusalem
occupied in 1967. It also agrees that Netanyahu lift some restrictions on the Gaza Strip
, and release prisoners loyal to the Palestinian faction Fateh
Netanyahu struck a defiant chord on Monday speaking to a pro-Israel lobby group in Washington, saying that construction in Jerusalem was no different than that in the rest of the country.