Israeli officials have confirmed that United States President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, amid growing tension over Israel’s recent announcement to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, Fox news reported on Friday.
Netanyahu is due to depart for the U.S. on Sunday, where he was initially scheduled to meet with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee alone.
Due to Obama’s postponement of a planned trip to Australia and Indonesia, the two leaders have scheduled a last minute meeting in which they are due to discuss the row provoked by Israel’s announcement, made while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in the country, Fox news reported.
Following Israel’s announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government had sent a “deeply negative signal” by taking steps which undermined renewed Middle East peace talks.
Clinton telephoned Netanyahu and expressed frustration over Israel’s announcement of new settlement construction, a move that deeply embarrassed visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and imperiled U.S. plans to launch indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The rebuke capped a week of tense exchanges between the United States and Israel. The announcement also infuriated the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership, which threatened to pull out of U.S.-brokered indirect “proximity” talks with Israel that Washington hoped would be the first step toward relaunching full peace negotiations after more than a year.
Clinton last week made specific demands of Netanyahu about the housing project and about showing commitment to U.S.-mediated indirect peace talks, the State Department has said.
At the same time, Clinton also said that she did not think ties between the U.S. and Israel were in danger. She said the United States and Israel have a “close, unshakable bond” and that Washington remained absolutely committed to Israeli security.
“We have an absolute commitment to Israel’s security. We have a close, unshakable bond between the United States and Israel,” Clinton told a news briefing, markedly softening the rhetoric after several days of sharp diplomatic exchanges over Israel’s announcement of new settlement construction.
Her comments followed remarks by Obama in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday in which he apparently sought to defuse tensions, saying there was “no crisis” in U.S.