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Lawmakers urge Obama to keep differences quiet

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bipartisan letter from U.S. House of Representatives leaders urges the Obama administration to resolve its differences with Israel quietly.

"We are writing to reaffirm our commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the state of Israel and to express to you our deep concern over recent tension," begins the letter that is to be sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It has been signed by three top leaders of each party, but AIPAC activists plan to help get more lawmakers to sign on this week. Tensions have flared over the last two weeks between the administrations of President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Israel announced a major new building start in eastern Jerusalem during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden aimed at underscoring close U.S.-Israel ties.

Clinton and Netanyahu are expected to meet this week on the sidelines of this year’s annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; AIPAC distributed copies of the letter at the conference, which began Sunday.

"We recognize that, despite the extraordinary closeness between our country and Israel, there will be differences over issues both large and small," the letter reads. "Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence, as befits longstanding strategic allies."

It is signed by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (D-Va.), the minority whip, and the top members of each party on the Foreign Affairs Committee and its Middle East subcommittee.

Separately, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) are circulating a letter among their colleagues that urges President Obama "to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations." It also urges him to press Palestinian Authority leaders to engage in direct talks with Israel.

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