Clinton and Bibi manage show of amity

Benjamin Netanyahu met President Clinton yesterday for the first time as Israeli Prime Minister, and put aside a series of differences over the path to Middle Eastern peace in a public show of amity between Israel and its most important friend and ally.

In what officials hailed as a sign that things were going well, the Oval Office talks overshot their appointed time by 45 minutes. Smiling and relaxed, Mr Netanyahu spoke of "productive discussions" during a brief break for a stroll in the White House rose garden.

But behind yesterday's cordial facade, deep problems still lurked. Washington is ready to be patient and accommodating as the Likud leader elaborates his strategy for negotiating with the Arabs - but not to the extent of dropping the land-for-peace formula that has under- pinned the US-sponsored "peace process" to date.

Before leaving for Washington, however, Mr Netanyahu pointedly noted that Jerusalem was "not willing to accept the deterioration of security as an existing and natural situation." The words were not just a thinly- coded reminder that resumed bargaining with Syria over the Golan heights was out of the question, and of his opposition to a fully-fledged Palestinian state, with its capital in Jerusalem.

They underline Likud's repudiation of the concilatiory policies of previous Labour Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres - for whose re-election this spring the White House wished publicly, but in vain.

On that last point, at least both sides will let bygones be bygones. Not only Israel, but also an exceptionally pro-Israeli Democratic President in a US election year have a great interest in a smooth working relationship.

Israel's longstanding concern over terrorism, moreover, has suddenly acquired new resonance here, after last month's truck bomb explosion in Dhahran, which killed 19 US servicemen. But the broader divergence is as wide as ever.

At best, Mr Netanyahu is prepared to make modest "confidence-building" gestures, in- cluding a promise to meet the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and an easing of the restrictions on Palestinian workers crossing from the West Bank and Gaza, imposed after the recent spate of suicide bombings in Israel.

But if the Administration is happy to be patient, parts of the Jewish comunity here are not. A group of 150 rabbis from the Jewish Peace Lobby have written to Mr Clinton demanding that the $1.2 billion annual economic aid Israel receives from the US be suspended if Mr Netanyahu carries out his campaign promise to expand West Bank settlements. Now was "not the time for a wait-and-see policy", the letter said.

But the Prime Minister was sure of a warmer welcome from AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, and on Capitol Hill where he will today address a Congress controlled by Republicans instinctively more sympathetic to his hardline approach to national security.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence