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Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

US-Israel row: Israeli views

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been visiting the US amid one of the most serious rows between the two allies in recent decades.

Israel angered both the US and the Palestinians last week by announcing it was pushing ahead with building in a Jewish area in occupied East Jerusalem earlier this month as Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting. Palestinians feel Israel is squeezing them out of the city where they eventually want their future capital, and withdrew in anger from scheduled US-brokered indirect peace talks. The international community considers East Jerusalem to be occupied territory. Building on occupied land is illegal under international law.

Israelis and an American on the streets of Jerusalem give their views on US-Israeli relations.

OSNAT SCHWARTZ, LAWYER, 58
Osnat Schwartz, Jerusalem resident

Things look bad now between Israel and the US.

The problem started a year ago when Obama, without enough experience, asked Israel to freeze all settlement building. He announced it so strongly at first, which put the Arabs in the position that 'we don't have to do anything, Obama will do the job for us'.

I think that his people have realised that it was a big mistake tactically.

Mr Netanyahu hasn't handled it well enough, but it all started with Obama. His administration tried to show that now it's a 'Palestinian America', that it's not like it used to be.

I agree with Mr Netanyahu that building in Jerusalem is just like building in Tel Aviv. There's no question about it. But I think right now, all building should be frozen, just to give the negotiations a chance.

ELI SHALEV, INSURANCE AGENT, 57

Eli Shalev, Jerusalem resident

I live in Gilo, a Jewish settlement [on the southern edge of Jerusalem], and I'm from the left wing of Israeli society.

I think we need to make a distinction between Arab neighbourhoods and Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. It's OK to build in Jewish ones, like Gilo, Ramot, Ramat Shlomo - Jewish people have to live somewhere.

But I think our government made a mistake in building in the heart of Arab neighbourhoods, like Sheikh Jarrah [where right-wing groups have won court battles over land ownership to have Palestinian families evicted].

I hope Mr Netanyahu's visit has improved relations with the US, but I'm not sure. Yesterday they approved a new building in Sheikh Jarrah - the Shepherd Hotel. It's stupid. I hope Mr Obama will push Israel further.

SASHA KARASOV, STUDENT, 20

Sasha Karasov, student

Even if now there are some problems between Israel and America, I don't think they will continue. Israel is like a little part of America, it's almost the same country.

I agree with Barack Obama on settlements. I think it isn't right that the Jewish government is trying to push the Arabs from the east of Jerusalem. We need to live in peace.

If the Arabs closed the road to the Jewish part of the Old City, it would be the same thing for us - the Arabs are angry and I understand them.

The American pressure will make a difference. I think we will find something that will be good for both Arabs and Jews.

YOACH IVRY, TEACHER, 55

Yoach Ivry, Jerusalem resident

I don't think there is a crisis in Israeli-US relations. We have the same interests in the world. Now the big problem is what will happen with Iran. The settlement problem is a very small problem - but some people want to make it into a big problem. In a few weeks, the problem between us will be solved.

Israel is a democracy. Mr Netanyahu can't just stop the building [in East Jerusalem]. The people here have rights under the law in Israel. It takes many years to build new areas in Jerusalem. But anyway, at the moment the building is not the main problem.

Mr Obama is good for the US. I don't know if he's good for Israel.

MARILYN KATZ, RETIRED, 66

Marilyn Katz, Jerusalem resident

I hope that the relationship between Israel and America gets better. I know it will, and will always survive.

I kind of agree with Mrs Clinton [that the Israeli announcement that 1,600 homes had been approved for East Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting was 'insulting'], but I don't want to say it too loud.

I don't think Israel has the right to say anything bad against America. America's always helped us; they've always been on our side.

I'm really on the fence about building in East Jerusalem. I lived in Efrat [a West Bank settlement] for 16 years, which is considered 'over the green line'. But quite honestly, if I was born and grew up in Deheisha [a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem] I would hate the Jewish people also. It's a place where people live in poverty. I understand the feelings. Yet I'm an orthodox Jewish woman and I can't leave Israel.

MOSHE SARUDI, SHOP MANAGER, 25

Moshe Sarudi, Jerusalem resident

Israel and America has had a very good relationship in the past, and I think now it's not as bad as everybody thinks.

I live in Ramat Shlomo [where the 1,600 controversial homes are planned]. The plans were first worked on a long time ago, but when Joe Biden came to Israel, the left wing made a lot of noise about it.

Israel as a country needs to build as much as we can, but if it bothers so many people, we should stop the building for a while and try to talk. But I think that if people want to talk, and make peace, they need to stop making excuses. If we stop building and the Palestinians are still looking for excuses, then that's different.

I really want two states, but I don't know if it will ever happen.

Throughout history, people were always just looking for excuses not to make peace.

PATTY MOSS, 54, FUNDRAISER FOR CHARITIES

Patty Moss, Jewish American visiting Jerusalem

Ms Moss is a Jewish American who visits Israel regularly on business

The relationship between Israel and the US is not going well at all. President Obama has an agenda that is contrary to the best interests of Israel. I think his naivety about the Middle East is abysmal, and as a result he has put Israel on the defensive. He is responsible for souring the relationship.

Netanyahu has done a fairly good job of handling the crisis that Obama brought to his doorstep.

When Netanyahu first went to the US, he was received extremely rudely. Mr Obama set the standard for the relationship, so he can hardly complain that Biden had a similar reception.

I'm undecided about building in East Jerusalem. It's a very difficult situation. But the big issue is not the building, it is the relationship that Obama started with a slap.



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