Netanyahu tells US: I'm not for turning

The meagre hopes of rescuing the Middle East peace process took a further blow yesterday with a blistering speech here by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, in which he vowed to press on with his settlements policy, promised no change in the status of Jerusalem, and ruled out any concessions in the face of Palestinian "terrorism".

Addressing a pro-Israeli group immediately before his crucial White House meeting with President Clinton, Mr Netanyahu sounded truculent in his determination to press ahead with the Har Homa housing project in mostly Arab east Jerusalem, which has sparked violent daily clashes since Israeli contractors began work last month on the 6,500-house development.

Why not? Mr Netanyahu in effect told the American Israel Public Affairs committee here. "We're allowing contractors to build in Har Homa ... that is our right, our obligation." And he mocked Palestinian opposition to the scheme: "This simple act has been described as terrorism of the walk- up rentals, terrorism of the condominiums." His audience roared with laughter.

As for a meaningful gesture from the Israelis to reduce tensions between the two sides, that seems equally improbable.

The Prime Minister noted he had been urged to make concessions "in return for a real crackdown by the Palestinian authority on the terrorist organisation". But this would be "pure and simple surrender to terrorism ... we are being told to pay for the privilege of not being killed ... we are not going to do that."

Meanwhile the Arab conviction that when push comes to shove the US will always support Israel will only have been hardened by Vice President Al Gore's assertion to the same pressure group that "during this complex period" the Clinton administration would not let Israel down. "I join you here as an ally," Mr Gore proclaimed, to riotous applause.

Not surprisingly the mood was sombre in the Oval Office as Mr Clinton and Mr Netanyahu sat down to talk yesterday, with neither man apparently willing or able to make a major move. In remarks to reporters beforehand Mr Clinton spoke only of the need to halt terrorism, breathing not a word about the temporary halt to the new settlement scheme that Washington had been hoping to secure, but which the Israeli Prime Minister seemed to rule out in advance.

Mr Clinton also poured cold water on talk of a second "Camp David" summit, between Mr Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, moderated by the US. It was important not to "jump the gun," Mr Clinton said. "We have to have the right conditions and understanding before we go forward again."

Caught between Mr Netanyahu's intransigence and his reluctance to offend the politically influential US Jewish lobby, Mr Clinton seemed last night to have few options, despite arguments from all sides here that only if the US "knocks heads together" can what remains of the peace process be salvaged.

Instead, Washington yesterday was playing down expectations of real progress from the Clinton/Netanyahu session. The rebuilding of confidence between the two sides was "a work in progress", Mike McCurry, the White House spokesman, said, noting that a senior Palestinian delegation was already in Washington and would meet the President this week.

If anything, the US reluctance to take a direct intermediary's role is growing, with officials insisting that only Israelis and Palestinians themselves can settle their differences. That casts doubt not only on Israel's notion of a repeat of the 1978 Camp David Summit that led to its peace treaty with Israel but even on an early visit to the Middle East by the new Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

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
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: New Business Sales Executive - Opportunities Across The UK

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

Recruitment Genius: Events Consultant

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has arisen for an ex...

Recruitment Genius: Injection Moulding Supervisor

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Busy moulding company requires ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Advisor - £35,000 OTE

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Advisor is required to ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003