Netanyahu is just playing hardball

This week's quarrel between the Israeli and US governments is almost an exact replay of previous disputes between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama's administration, signalling a return to the rocky relationship of last year. But it could also be an artificial spat to be followed shortly by agreement and progress.

On the face of it, the chain of denunciation and counter-charges following the announcement of the district planning authority of plans to build new homes in Jewish neighbourhoods across the pre-1967 border in East Jerusalem, was an almost identical replay of similar events a year ago.

Is this the much-expected post-midterm elections crisis between the two governments? Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem revealed on Wednesday that Mr Netanyahu will be back in the US in a matter of weeks, this time for a full meeting with the president in the White House and the expectation is that he will be there to close a deal on a new freeze of settlement building giving another chance to jump-start the peace talks. Meanwhile, he is sticking to his proven method of provoking a mini-crisis before agreement, in the hope of limiting opposition within his coalition and maximising any possible diplomatic and security gains.

    Last updated: 4:32pm, May 31 2011