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Israel Looks To Hold On To Close US Ties Under Obama

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DogPoundPup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-21-09 12:38 PM
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Israel Looks To Hold On To Close US Ties Under Obama
JERUSALEM (AFP)--Israel leaders are working to keep their special relations with Washington under Barack Obama's administration while glossing over likely differences with a president who prefers diplomacy to war.

Political leaders of all hues have welcomed Obama's arrival in power, including those on the right who have in the past expressed grave doubts about statements they consider too conciliatory towards Israel's long-standing enemies such as Iran.

Three weeks before general elections, right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu - tipped by polls to be the next prime minister - clearly doesn't want to be seen by voters as a man who will risk a conflict with the new regime in Washington.

"But a Netanyahu government risks clashing with the new American administration on issues as important as the settlements or Iran," said political pundit Akiva Eldar.

"Barack Obama has always said he opposes settlements, which is a key plank of the Likud manifesto," noted Eldar, who specializes in the Jewish colonies on occupied Arab land.

The expected appointment of retired senator George Mitchell as Washington's Middle East envoy is "significant," he added.

Mitchell wrote a report into the causes of the second Palestinian uprising or intifada in 2000 for the Bill Clinton administration.

It called for confidence-building measures between Israel and the Palestinians, a return to the negotiating table and a total freeze on Jewish settlement on occupied land, which Netanyahu's Likud party totally rejects.

The report deeply annoyed the right in Israel, particularly because it was perceived as putting settlements and Palestinain "terrorism" in the same basket - both factors deemed to have halted the peace process.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu "will do everything to avoid a confrontation with Washington, having drawn lessons from his conflict with president Bill Clinton after 1996 which contributed towards his defeat in the 1998 elections," Eldar said.

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