Benjamin Netanyahu in-law calls US President 'anti-Semitic'

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The brother-in-law of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, yesterday accused Barack Obama, the US President, of being "anti-Semitic".

Hagai Ben-Artzi, a right winger who is Sara Netanyahu's brother, told Army Radio: "When an anti-Semitic president takes office in America – that is our test to say, 'We won't give up.'" Of the latest row over settlements, he said: "Once the Americans tried to intervene in anything related to Jerusalem we told them one simple word, no."

His jibe was strongly and swiftly disavowed by the Israeli Prime Minister. "I vehemently oppose the comments made by Mr Ben-Artzi. I have a deep appreciation of President Obama's commitment to the security of Israel which he has expressed many times and for the deep ties between both countries," Mr Netanyahu said in a statement.

His aides also stressed it was not the first time that the Israeli leader had "totally differed" from the opinions of his brother-in-law.

Mr Netanyahu spoke at length on Tuesday night with US Vice-President Joe Biden over the row triggered by the announcement of plans to expand the Jerusalem Ramat Shlomo settlement.

Meanwhile Baroness Ashton, the EU high representative, said "serious negotiations" were needed as quickly as possible between the Israelis and Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, has refused to negotiate unless the Ramat Shlomo plan is scrapped.

Lady Ashton was speaking after a meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who said the demand to scrap the plan was "to a large extent, an opportunity to attack Israel and pressure Israel into doing unreasonable things".