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US Israel settlements fight marks lowest point since 1970s: ambassador

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"You don't want to be the prime minister that's the worst in the relationship with the US,'' says Mitchell Barak, an Israeli pollster. "[Former Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon was wildly popular, and one of those reasons is because of a close relationship with [Former President George W.] Bush.''

A spokesperson from the foreign ministry did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Another apology for 1,600 new homes

Amid an unusually high-profile flap over Israeli settlements, Netanyahu on Sunday apologized again for what he called the unintentional publication last week of plans to build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state and which was seized by Israel in the 1967 war. News of the project has prompted the Palestinians to threaten a boycott of negotiations that the US had finally succeeded in renewing, spurring an unusual series of public criticisms of Israel from the Obama administration.

The announcement of the plans came from the Interior Ministry, which is headed by Eli Yishai of the religious nationalist Shas party, prompting speculation that the move was designed to derail Biden's visit and make Netanyahu look bad.

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