Will there be rifts in U.S.-Israel relationship?
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Will there be rifts in U.S.-Israel relationship?

Two top Middle East experts expressed concern Sunday at the AIPAC policy conference about potential rifts between the U.S. and Israel — on two different topics.

Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that by next year at this time, he worries about a possible "deep disagreement" about how "one really deal with the Iranian nuclear challenge."

If the United States and Israel "are not totally on the same page from A to Z on this issue, and it is not handled properly, we may  be dealing with the most serious face-to-face disagreement between the United States and Israel in the 61-year history of the relationship," said Satloff during a panel discussion about the Middle East at the conference’s opening plenary session.

About 90 minutes later, Satloff’s colleague at WINEP, David Makovsky, said the two governments could clash over another matter in the months to come.

"The settlement issue has been a major issue in the U.S.-Israel relationship" since the first settlement was built and "in my view could intensify," said Makovsky, speaking at a breakout session dealing with Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. "I don’t think the Obama administration or the Netanyahu government wants to pick a fight, but my fear is events on the ground sometimes have their own dynamic."

Makovsky was discussing his idea that the Israelis and Palestinian should try to "demarcate the border" of an eventual Palestinian state now, allow Israelis to build more houses in the West Bank while Palestinians build their institutions. He believes coming to an agreement on land would be the easiest part of a peace agreement, since 75 percent of the settlers in the West Bank live on just 4.4 percent of the land.