Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed Washington, D.C., Thursday without coming to an agreement with the Obama administration on the matter of expanding Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem.
A March 9 announcement of the plan to build 1,600 new apartments in East Jerusalem came during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, and cast a pall over Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S., where he made the rounds on Capitol Hill and the White House, this week.
A Council on Foreign Relations round-up of analysts describes the complicated nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship leading into Netanyahu’s visit, and the toll the settlements issue is taking.
So where do things go from here?
We asked Steven Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at CFR, for his view on the road ahead. Cook says the United States’ job at this point is to work toward rebuilding the trust that was necessary to hold Israeli-Palestinian “proximity talks” that were supposed to be held earlier this month. “That may take some time,” he said.
The Obama administration’s recent stance may indirectly raise the bar for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to push for a total settlement freeze, “otherwise he would be seen by the Palestinian population and his political opponents as caving and making this concession to the Israelis,” Cook said. “So there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of diplomatic work to help Abbas climb down from this political problem that he confronts.”
Hear more of Cook’s explanation: