Washington: President Barack Obama and
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White
House in the midst of a serious dispute that spoiled what
might have been a celebration of a recent agreement for a new
round of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Obama and Netanyahu conferred for about 90 minutes
yesterday in the Oval Office, but in a break with custom
reporters were not invited to see the close allies shake hands
and begin their discussions.
The White House had no immediate comment on what was
discussed. Netanyahu did not leave the White House for another
two hours after his formal talks with Obama, but what he was
doing during that time was not immediately clear.
At issue is Israel's announcement two weeks ago, as Vice
President Joe Biden visited the country, that it will build
1,600 new apartments in east Jerusalem, the largely Arab
section of the disputed holy city.
Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a
future state and have delayed new US-sponsored peace talks
over what they say is an Israeli land grab.
Israel yesterday unveiled a grandiose plan for hotels,
businesses and new housing for Palestinians in the centre of
east Jerusalem, but the announcement only brought Palestinian
suspicion that it was an unacceptable payoff for new building
in Jewish neighbourhoods.
The plan calls for developing a large area across from
the Old City wall for tourism and commerce, as well as
building 1,000 additional apartments.
First Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 09:40