Obama lets down expectations for stronger US pressure on Israel
A long-anticipated meeting this week between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to have mended fences between the two countries, and also signaled that the Israeli government could come under pressure from Washington to ease tensions with another US ally, Turkey. Turkish analysts suggest the steep decline in Turkish-Israeli ties might have been discussed as a secondary issue during the meeting. They pointed out that afterwards neither leader explicitly mentioned Jewish settlements, direct talks between Israel and Palestine, or Turkish-Israeli ties. There were expectations, though slim, that Obama could urge Netanyahu to offer an apology to Turkey, sought by Ankara as a basic condition to starting to repair the damage done to relations by Israel's deadly May 31 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. But the message from the Tuesday meeting merely reiterated that US-Israeli ties remain strong and unbreakable. Both leaders underlined the "special ties" between the two countries and voiced hope for direct talks between Israel and Palestine. Obama added that the "US will never ask Israel to do anything that undermines its security." When asked about Israel's settlement policies, Obama did not say explicitly that Israel should extend its moratorium on settlements, which is expiring on Sept. 15. Netanyahu's far-right coalition partners do not want extension of the moratorium and, according to analysts, the only way to do it is for Netanyahu to start direct talks with the Palestinians.