Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened his senior ministers in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.
Late Friday evening, Israel Radio reported that Netanyahu holds to the view that Israel must not change its policy in Jerusalem, despite the fact that this was the main point of contentions between Israel and the United States.
However the circle of seven top ministers, known collectively as the 'Septet', did not come to any conclusions following the five-hour discussion and will probably only announce the government's position after the Passover Seder which occurs Monday evening.
Netanyahu told his inner circle also that on Iran, the US and Israel were in complete agreement.
Earlier, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office threw a complete blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, and also gave very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. According to officials, the US wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization's backing for starting proximity talks.
Netanyahu's spokesman Nir Hefetz on Friday morning said that the prime minister reached understandings with Obama regarding continued construction in east Jerusalem.
In an interview with Army Radio, he added that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu agree on these issues and assessed that the inner cabinet will support the understandings reached in Washington.
"There are several steps that the Americans would like to see Israel take in order to restart the peace process. We returned from the US with the understanding that on one hand, the construction policy in Jerusalem will remain unchanged, and on the other hand, Israel is prepared to make gestures in order to resume the peace process," Hefetz said.
The main point of contention between Netanyahu and Obama, Hefetz confirmed, was the US demand that Israel extend the ten-month West Bank building moratorium.
Netanyahu's spokesman rejected reports that Obama demanded that the
Palestinian Authority be given control over east Jerusalem's Abu Dis
Meanwhile in the opposition, Kadima MK Yohanan Plessner told the radio
station that the his party would agree to partner with Likud if the
parties managed to agree on the political agenda. "The policy is clear
- we are for a real unity government, with a joint agenda. After we
have a real agenda and a coalition that can implement it, we can
discuss who gets which ministries," Plessner said.