Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Obama at the White House on Tuesday, as the allies remain at odds over Israel's plan to build new housing on disputed land in East Jerusalem.
The leaders will meet two weeks after Israel announced the planned construction of 1,600 apartments in a disputed area claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. That announcement came during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel and has strained ties between Netanyahu's government and the Obama administration, which is pushing for new talks to end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Our goal in any of this is to create an atmosphere of trust and open dialogue, to bring these two sides together so that the discussions can be substantive in moving towards comprehensive Middle Eastern peace," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at a Monday briefing.
"I think the president is hopeful that we will in this meeting make progress and ... get these two
parties back to, not just back physically to talks, but to the type of relationship that is necessary for those talks to bear fruit."
On Monday, Netanyahu sharply defended his government's plan for new housing in East Jerusalem.Â In a defiant speech to the leading pro-Israel lobby in the United States on Monday night, Netanyahu said Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are "an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem."
"The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied," Netanyahu said to prolonged applause at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). "The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital."