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US-Israeli Relations At Lowest Point In Years

Middle Eastern Newsline | April 12 2005

WASHINGTON [MENL] -- President George Bush hosts Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as U.S.-Israeli relations have dropped to their lowest point in years.

U.S. officials said relations between Jerusalem and Washington have been strained at both the defense and political levels. They said the Bush administration has been increasingly estranged from the Israeli government amid repeated misunderstandings between leaders, rising U.S. skepticism over Israel's ability to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank and the growing perception that Israel has hampered U.S. policy goals in the Middle East.

"The administration wants to focus its Middle East policy on a military exit from a democratic Iraq," a U.S. official said. "This goal requires significant international cooperation and that's where Israeli policy has been seen as a hindrance."

Officials, congressional sources and Western diplomats portray Bush's relationship with Sharon as strained. They said Bush has sought to avoid meeting or maintaining direct contact with Sharon, regarded by the White House as unreliable and lacking in vision.