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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Netanyahu Won't Slow Down Settlement Construction

The facedown continues.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would not restrict construction in east Jerusalem, a step requested by the U.S., but would upgrade upcoming indirect talks with the Palestinians to include the main issues dividing them.

Netanyahu originally had wanted to put off a discussion of issues like the status of contested east Jerusalem, final borders and the fate of Palestinian refugees until direct talks are launched.

It was not clear what Netanyahu's declared refusal to budge on east Jerusalem -- the territory that lies at the crux of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- would mean for future relations with Washington and the rest of the international community.

Netanyahu's moves go nowhere near the U.S. demand to cancel a major new housing project at the heart of the row, but apparently he has offered enough to prompt U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to call them "useful and productive" and dispatch an envoy back to the region this week.

For more coverage check out Jeff Jacoby and Charles Krauthammer.

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