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News Analysis: U.S., Israel patch up spat, but tensions could resume

07-07-2010 08:06 BJT

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, July 6 (Xinhua) -- U.S. and Israeli leaders on Tuesday trumpeted what they billed as an unwavering bond between the two countries, nearly four months after a public dust up that some called the worst in years.

But in spite of the cordiality that characterized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington, analysts warned that another diplomatic crisis could break out in September.

At a press conference, both leaders touted the strength of the relationship, and U.S. President Barack Obama said the bond between Israel and the United States is "unbreakable."

"It encompasses our national security interests, our strategic interests, but most importantly, the bond of two democracies who share a common set of values and whose people have grown closer and closer as time goes on," Obama said.

Netanyahu echoed those sentiments, saying reports of weakening ties between the two countries were "just flat wrong."

Israeli officials scrambled to show progress toward the peace process, in which Obama has invested much time and political capital, in the days ahead of the prime minister's visit, partly in a bid to warm relations with Washington, some analysts said.

Israeli officials on Monday announced steps to ease the Gaza blockade -- a move Obama commended on Tuesday -- and Israel's defense minister held a direct meeting with the Palestinian prime minister.

But a ten-month freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank is slated to end in September, and failure to extend the moratorium could spark another round of strained U.S.-Israeli relations, as the Obama administration has called for an end to Israeli settlements in the area.

Indeed, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that there is "no chance" of an extension on the freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Bloomberg reported.

Still, another U.S.-Israel diplomatic breakdown might be averted if the Palestinians agree to hold a round of direct talks with Israel before the September deadline, which could spur Israel to extend the settlement freeze, said David Pollock, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Such a move, however, could also spark a reshuffling of Israel' s coalition government, as some members may defect in protest of a settlement freeze.

Tuesday's visit was initially slated for last month, but Netanyahu rescheduled it when Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish ship that was attempting to break Israeli's marine blockade of Gaza and resulted in a skirmish and nine casualties.

The United States sided with Israel on the issue, which helped ease tensions that began in March when Israel announced the building of 1,600 new Jewish housing units in the West Bank.

The Obama administration views the settlements as an obstacle to the peace process during his visit to Jerusalem.

In response to the announcement of the housing units, the Obama administration publicly upbraided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later gave him a chilly reception at the White House.

While the two allies share common goals and values, the relationship has at times been rocky.

In 1969-70, U.S. President Richard Nixon pressured Israel to accept a new cease-fire with Egypt along the Suez Canal and even slowed arms shipments to Israel.

In 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced a " reassessment" of U.S. policy and again slowed aid to press Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's new government for a withdrawal from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan pressured Israel to stop bombarding Beirut, Lebanon and withdraw from most of that country, in part through public hints of changes in the relationship.

In 1996 and again in 1999, President Bill Clinton refused to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and publicly hinted that Israelis should vote for Netanyahu's political rivals.

And President George W. Bush privately pressed Israel on some points, such as allowing Hamas to run in the Palestinian election in 2006, though without a public crisis.


Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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