Israel uneasy over Obama overture to Muslim world
On the eve of US President Barack Obama's much-heralded address to the Muslim world, there was deep unease in Israel yesterday that any reconciliation may come at the expense of the Jewish state.
"The American president has the right to try to reconcile with the Muslim world and compete with Al-Qaeda or Iran for its heart," said Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"We have to make sure that this will not harm our common interests," Katz told army radio shortly before Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his trip.
Over the past few weeks, tensions between the staunch allies have risen to levels unseen in 20 years as Obama's administration has repeatedly demanded that Israel halt all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and commit to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu, the head of a largely right-wing cabinet, has so far refused to do both and answering US calls would likely topple his government, many analysts say.
"Obama seeks reconciliation with the Muslim world and Israel will pay the price," wrote one commentator on the Ynet news website on May 20, in a sentiment echoed throughout the Israeli press over the past few weeks.
"Obama plans to teach Netanyahu about tough love," wrote the Haaretz newspaper.
In a move that could further wrack up tensions, Haaretz reported that Obama intends to give Netanyahu up to six weeks to present an "updated position" on settlement construction and the two-state principle.