The White House announced Sunday that President Barack Obama would be meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu during the Israeli prime minister's trip to Washington to address Jewish groups, ending days of uncertainty.
Netanyahu was to arrive in the U.S. capital Sunday night for a speaking engagement at the three-day 2009 General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America. He will meet with Obama on Monday evening.
U.S.-Israeli relations have been strained since Netanyahu rejected Obama's demand that the Israeli government stop building or expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinians say Israel has deeply encroached into land the Palestinians claim for a future state.
Not long after taking office, Obama announced his determination to facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians and said an end to settlements was a necessary condition for a resumption of negotiations.
Netanyahu has rejected that demand, but last week visiting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton floated an Israeli proposal that would restrain _ but not stop _ more West Bank housing. She played it as a major conciliatory move from the Israelis.
Palestinian and Arab diplomats reacted with outrage, and Clinton was forced to backpedal. Arab officials questioned whether the U.S. had tilted toward Israel, abandoning the American position that continued Israel settlements were illegitimate and must end.
Clinton's comments may have reflected a realization within the Obama administration that the conservative Netanyahu would not accept a full-on settlement freeze and that a partial halt might be the most likely, if lesser option. Her appeal seemed designed to make the Israeli position more palatable to the Palestinians and Arab states.
It had the opposite effect, forcing Clinton to extend her overseas journey by a day as she rushed to Egypt in a bid to undo the damage with President Hosni Mubarak, who has played a major role in the peace process.
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The Jewish Federations of North America: http://www.jewishfederations.org/