As the controversial Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has visited the United States for the first time in his new capacity, lets take a closer look at what's making the headlines back home here in Jerusalem.
Following on from his speech last Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu has effectively silenced some of the serious political-diplomatic opposition to him in Israel. However, one can wonder whether he will be able to derive any real practical benefits from his achievement.
In his speech, Netanyahu laid the foundation for a broad national consensus, for national unity. This was his success. He adopted the idea of a division of the land Israel now holds, and thus the establishment of a Palestinian state which he hitherto had disagreed to. He set essential conditions for this, especially the demand that the Palestinian entity recognize the Jewish national state's right to exist and Israel's security needs.
The other main condition was the expansion of Jewish settlements – what Israel calls “natural growth”.
As Forieng Minister Liberman met Secretary of State Clinton in Washington, the meeting began with diplomatic smiles and the like. It ended however in disagreement after Mr. Liberman emphasized that due to natural growth, Israel cannot agree to a complete settlement halt.
A complete settlement halt is what U.S. President Barak Obama has said must happen.
Mr. Liberman draws his position from Israel's position that there are understandings with previous U.S. administrations on construction for natural growth. Secretary Clinton countered with the Obama administration position that there are no understandings, and that the U.S. expectation is for a complete halt. She justifies this as the cessation to be vital for the peace process to move forward in any concrete way.
Thus we have a public clash between the U.S. and Israel on the settlements issue.
Back to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech. Mr. Netanyahu presented, as one local media put it, “…a position in principle, the significance of which means acceptance of the demand to dismantle settlements. Now, what remains is to set the price for their evacuation.”
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Middle East Correspondent