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Israel's Netanyahu Announces Strategy for White House Summit


Jewish settlements issue has caused serious crisis in US-Israel relations, and Mr. Netanyahu hopes to mend fences when he meets Mr Obama

Israel is setting out its strategy for a White House summit on Tuesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his upcoming White House meeting will focus on advancing peace talks with the Palestinians.

After two months of indirect talks mediated by the United States, Mr. Netanyahu told Israel's Cabinet it is time to begin face-to-face negations.

He said the only way to achieve peace is through direct negotiations, and he hopes that will be the result of his visit to Washington.

The Palestinians have shunned direct talks with Israel in protest over Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Mr. Netanyahu has rejected Palestinian and international demands to freeze construction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel has met the Palestinians part way, imposing a partial freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank to clear the way for indirect peace talks.

But the 10-month freeze is due to end in September. And at the White House summit, President Barack Obama is expected to call for an extension because the United States sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace.

So Mr. Netanyahu faces a dilemma; appeasing the United States or satisfying his right-wing coalition partners who are urging him to resist American pressure.

"The construction freeze must end," said Cabinet Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, adding that the settlements must be allowed to expand and grow. He said it is essential to build and develop all the biblical Land of Israel.

It will be hard for Mr. Netanyahu to heed that call because the settlement issue has caused a serious crisis in U.S.-Israel relations, and the Israeli Prime Minister hopes to mend fences when he visits the White House.

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