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23 Mar, 2010 05:32

US and Israel still at odds on settlements

Since Israel recently announced 1,600 further settlements in the disputed area of East Jerusalem, a rift with the US has widened. With a strong Jewish lobby in America, the issue has become a divisive one in the US.

Both US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were in Washington DC on Monday, attending an annual conference organized by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a US pro-Israeli interest group, one of the most powerful groups in Washington.

Speaking at the forum, the Israeli leader remained defiant, claiming his country had a right to build on the land.

The building of settlements, the Palestinian Conflict and Zionism were issues dividing people outside the annual conference of AIPAC. But even inside, divisions ran deep.

Crowds were caught in an impromptu debate between well-known defenders of Israel and the new pro-Israel lobby in town.

This was aside from the official highly-anticipated moment – a speech from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Expectations for the speech seemed to hinge on the recent disagreement between the US and Israel.

“I am concerned as everyone else about the schism that has arisen over the settlements issue. I don't blame them for being tough on Israel, I blame them for being public on Israel,” AIPAC member Rabbi Geoffrey Haber said.

Others claimed they expected to hear an apology for over-reacting.

For her part, Clinton uttered passionate words, but “sorry” was not among them, and that was not the only unsettling moment for AIPAC.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up her remarks to AIPAC, the lobby sent out a press release in reaction to a bogus release that national media had reported on, saying the lobby had called for a freeze on settlements. It perhaps highlighted the sensitive issue that many in the crowd of 7,500 gathered were hoping Clinton would address

Clinton stuck by the administration's position and, despite also paying lip service to Obama, AIPAC could well be looking for new leadership in 2012.

"I think probably so…I think he may very well be a one-term president,” AIPAC member Rev. Jim Bevis said.