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Israel shrugs off Mitchell's loan threat

Israel's finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, said on Sunday that Israel could do without loan guarantees after US envoy George Mitchell told PBS last week that the US could consider withholding the guarantees if Israel doesn't stop settlement construction.

Palestinian construction workers work at a new housing development in the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa in east Jerusalem, Dec. 28.

Dan Balilty/AP/File

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Israeli officials on Sunday tried to downplay tensions looming with the United States after George Mitchell, the Obama administration's Middle East envoy, suggested in a PBS interview that the US could consider withholding support for loan guarantees for Israel.

Israel's finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, said on Sunday that Israel has "no indication that there is any intention to pressure us through the guarantees ... only a few months ago we reached an agreement with the US treasury and state departments on the extension of their guarantees." However, he also said that Israel could do without the guarantees, if necessary.

"We don't have to use those guarantees. We are doing very well without them," Mr. Steinitz said Sunday. He added in his comments that Israel late last year agreed with the US on the guarantees for 2010 and 2011, and no conditions were placed on Israel at that time.
Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar also addressed Mr. Mitchell's remark at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, saying that Israel would act in its own interests and not according to external pressures.

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