The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

November 10, 2013

Crisis brewing in Israeli-US relations

(Continued)

JERUSALEM —

The lack of chemistry seems rooted in vastly different world views. Obama is a proponent of diplomacy and consensus, while Netanyahu believes Israel can trust no one and must protect itself.

Netanyahu also enjoys strong ties with U.S. Republicans. In 2012, he was widely perceived to have backed challenger Mitt Romney.

And there has been constant friction over Netanyahu's insistence on continuing to settle Jews on occupied land even as he negotiates with the Palestinians.

Last March, Obama traveled to Israel for a visit widely seen as an attempt to reboot relations. The two leaders appeared together at a series of events, smiling and sharing jokes. But even then there were signs of trouble. Obama urged an audience of university students to pressure Israeli leaders to change their ways and take bold new steps to reach peace with the Palestinians.

Since then, officials on both sides have stressed the countries are close allies regardless of politics. But the atmosphere gradually soured again as Obama pressed forward with his two major diplomatic initiatives.

Over the summer, Kerry persuaded Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table for the first time in nearly five years. The sides agreed to talk for nine months, with an April target date for reaching a peace deal.

To get talks going, Palestinians dropped a longstanding demand for an Israeli freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured territories that the Palestinians claim for a future state. To get Palestinians back to talks, Israel committed to releasing 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners. The U.S. also apparently gave vague assurances settlement construction would be restrained.

With negotiations making no visible progress, Israel's release of a second round of Palestinian prisoners two weeks ago — all jailed for killing Israelis — set off an uproar. Netanyahu followed the release by announcing plans to build thousands of settler homes, infuriating the Palestinians, the Americans and also the moderate camp in Israel itself.

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