After Icy U.S. Meeting, Netanyahu Weighs Next Steps Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special meeting of his inner Cabinet on Friday to discuss his contentious visit to Washington this week. The U.S. has given him a list of demands, which he must decide whether to accept.
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After Icy U.S. Meeting, Netanyahu Weighs Next Steps

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After Icy U.S. Meeting, Netanyahu Weighs Next Steps

After Icy U.S. Meeting, Netanyahu Weighs Next Steps

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.

Steve Inskeep is on a reporting trip to Pakistan. And in a moment, we'll hear from Pakistan's foreign minister on the warming in his country's relationship with the U.S.

First, relations with another key ally, Israel, are going in a different direction. The Israeli media is in a frenzy over the reported humiliation of the prime minister by the Obama administration. Today, Netanyahu called a special cabinet meeting to talk about his visit to Washington earlier this week. A key question now is what he will do to help get the relationship back on track, and that will inevitably involve the peace process.

Here's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: An Israeli official close to the prime minister tells NPR that Netanyahu is considering a series of confidence-building measures to allow peace talks to move forward.

Among the moves under review: reversing its former position, Israel will talk about substantive issues like final borders in indirect talks brokered by U.S.; a Palestinian prisoner release with two caveats - that it does not impact the negotiations for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who is currently being held hostage in Gaza by the militant group Hamas, and that those who are let go who have the potential to kill more Israelis, be sent to a third country.

Another measure: handing over certain areas of the occupied West Bank that are currently overseen by the Israeli security forces to Palestinian security control. And finally, a possible easing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli official said that prime minister's position on Jerusalem, so far, hasn't changed. Israel considers the city the undivided capital of the Jewish state and will not restrict building there, a key American demand.

Israeli press reports said that Netanyahu was unprepared for the chilly reception he got at the White House. He was hoping to mend ties that have been strained in recent weeks by a series of announcements of new Jewish building in East Jerusalem. But instead, the Israeli press said, Netanyahu was ambushed, detailing how, at one point, the president cut the first meeting with Netanyahu short and left to go have dinner without inviting the Israeli premier.

There were uncharacteristically, for a visit of a key ally, no photo opportunities and no statements to the press at the White House. One commentator described the Obama administration as treating the Israeli leader with swinish contempt.

Ehud Ya'ari is an international fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He told reporters, in a conference call yesterday, that the Israeli team was shocked by its treatment at the White House.

Mr. EHUD YA'ARI (Senior Fellow, Institute for Near East Policy): The general sense in Israel, right now, is that the prime minister was sorely humiliated by President Obama. There is quite a degree of amazement at the way he was treated.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Analysts here say that the personal relationship between the two leaders is now a difficult one: neither trusts the other.

Menachem Hofnung teaches at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. He says the Israeli premier is in a tricky position, is largely right-wing coalition won't let him make concessions on issues like Jerusalem.

Professor MENACHEM HOFNUNG (Department of Political Science, Hebrew University): It seems that Netanyahu will have to make a choice. Either to go on with his current coalition, which means break with the United States; or trying to heal the gap with the United States by breaking up the coalition.

You have to face a crisis. It will be either internal or external. My hunch is that Netanyahu is going to choose the external conflict.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Which, says Hofnung, means the rift with the United States won't be healed anytime soon.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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