Netanyahu to Meet Obama at White House

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the White House for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in Washington, March 23, 2010.

(KATAKAMI / VOA)  Israel’s prime minister is scheduled to hold talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday, as the two nations try to ease differences over Israeli plans to expand settlements in East Jerusalem.

President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to discuss indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to be mediated by the United States.

It is the first time the two leaders will meet since the U.S. condemned an Israeli plan announced this month to build 1,600 new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

The announcement sparked one of the worst diplomatic disputes in years between the United States and Israel.

During a speech to a major pro-Israel group in Washington late Monday, Mr. Netanyahu said Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, not a settlement, and that Israel will keep building there.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the same group that Israel’s expansion plans are putting the indirect peace talks at risk.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told VOA Tuesday that both Israel and the Palestinians must refrain from doing anything that undermines peace negotiations.

Mr. Blair is the special envoy for the international Quartet on the Middle East, comprising the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union.  The former prime minister said the most important thing now is to get the peace talks started.

Mr. Blair delivered a speech in Washington Tuesday to the same pro-Israel group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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