Obama hosts Netanyahu to mend diplomatic fences
President Barack Obama hosts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office Tuesday morning for a fence-mending visit that comes in the wake of a series of diplomatic collisions and as U.S. officials strain to advance peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
The peace process has been laboring in a phase known as "proximity talks," in which the two sides do not talk directly to one another but instead communicate through U.S. mediators. U.S. officials want to progress to a point where Israelis and Palestinians actually meet with one another for the first time in Obama's presidency.
Peace talks have been pushed to the sidelines by a succession of conflicts involving Israel's building policies and its blockade of Gaza. The visit, Netanyahu's third at the Obama White House, comes in the run-up to the expiration this fall of a freeze on settlement building by Israel in Palestinian-occupied areas.
Meanwhile, tensions are still running high over Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza, even as the Netanyahu government relaxes restrictions on items that may be delivered to the Palestinian territory. Under pressure from the international community, Israel on Monday announced that consumer goods would be allowed into the strip, though construction goods needed for rebuilding were remain largely off-limits.
Israel's policies on Gaza came under sharply critical international focus following a May 31 Israeli raid on an aid flotilla in which nine people were killed. In the wake of the furor over the attack, Netanyahu canceled an earlier planned visit to Washington.
Israelis and the country's staunch American supporters, meanwhile, have been critical of Obama for taking a hard line against Israeli housing policies.
It would seem the LA times reporter is happily distinguishing self from 'American staunch supporters of Israel'. Blech.