Wednesday, March 24, 2010

FP morning post 3/24

Obama and Netanyahu meet amid new construction dispute

Top news: A high-profile U.S.-Israel meeting has again been overshadowed by new Israeli construction plans. Just minutes before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama in Washington last night, the municipality of Jerusalem announced the approval of a plan to construct 20 new appartments for Jews in an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The U.S. government had demanded that the project be suspended when it was initially approved last July.

The latest announcement is reminiscent of Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel earlier this month, during which Israel announced the construction of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. Jerusalem officials say that yesterdays's approval was just a procedural measure for a plan that has been in place for months and that opponents are blowing it out of proportion to create trouble during Netanyahu's visit. But opposition lawmakers see a deliberate provocation:

"Is this another 'unfortunate' mistake? Is this another 'misunderstanding?'" said Labor MK Eitan Cabel. "Netanyahu decided to spit into Obama's eye, this time from up close. He and his pyromaniac ministers insist on setting the Middle East ablaze."

Netanyahu and Obama met for three hours at the White House last night after meeting earlier in the day with Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Congressional leaders. There has been no immediate U.S. reaction to the lastest housing announcement.

Google/China: As Beijing amps up its rhetoric against Google following the decision to shut down the censored portal, Chinese companies are pulling out of partnerships with the U.S.-based search giant.

  • Two NATO servicemembers were killed by a bombing in Southern Afghanistan.
  • The bribery trial of four Rio Tinto executives in China has ended. No verdict has been announced.
  • The Japanese government passed a $1 trillion budget aimed at spurring growth.
Middle East
  • Meeting with Mexican government officials, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged U.S. help in combating the social issues behind drug trafficking.
  • Venezuela's government has jailed a former state governor and presidential candidate who accused President Hugo Chavez of ties to militant groups.
  • The Colombian military rescued five oil workers who were kidnapped by leftist guerrillas last week.
-By Joshua Keating

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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