ROCHESTER, Minnesota (CNN) -- Making the first stop on his trip to the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived Sunday in Minnesota during a late-season blizzard.
The purpose of the visit: a series of meetings intended to shore up the faltering Middle East peace process.
His first order of business was to meet with Jordan's King Hussein at the Mayo Clinic here, where the monarch is recovering from successful prostate surgery.
A handful of protesters stood outside the hospital in fierce winds and snow to protest Netanyahu's policies, while in downtown Rochester flew a banner bearing the word "Peace."
The two leaders conferred Sunday evening, with thorny issues such as borders and the building of a Jewish settlement in Jerusalem on the agenda.
Netanyahu planned to travel to Washington Monday for a meeting with President Clinton, and U.S. officials were expected to present new proposals for the crisis-plagued Mideast. He is also expected to visit the annual meeting Monday of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.
'Construction will continue'
Peace negotiations broke off last month after Netanyahu pushed ahead with plans to build a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, an area where the Palestinians had planned to build their own capital.
Israeli bulldozers broke ground at the site, called Har Homa in Hebrew and Jabal Abu Ghneim in Arabic, on March 18, sparking increasingly violent protests by angry Palestinians.
The project was the target of yet another demonstration Sunday as Palestinian students at Hebron University burned U.S. and Israeli flags during student elections.
While the Palestinian side has insisted that a condition for
resuming peace talks must be the halting of the housing
project, the Israelis say it will not happen.
"I can only state unequivocally that the construction in
Jerusalem, the building in Har Homa, will continue," Israeli
cabinet secretary Danny Naveh said on Israel army radio.
The Israelis contend that Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat has given a green light to the protests that greeted the construction project, including a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that left three Israeli women and the bomber dead.
Arafat also out of the region
Netanyahu did ease some border restrictions between the West
Bank and Gaza Strip and Israel -- in place since the Tel Aviv
bombing March 21 -- but he has held to a demand that
Arafat crack down on the terrorists responsible for the
The Palestinians have refused to cooperate with the Israelis
to prevent terrorist attacks. In fact, while Netanyahu flew west, Arafat went east and attended a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in New Delhi.
In Washington, Netanyahu is expected to push his plan to
complete the peace process in six months. Arafat has been cool to the suggestion, fearing that it would give Israel an excuse not to implement agreements the parties made in Oslo.
Israeli sources say Netanyahu hopes to enlist Hussein to use his influence with Arafat.
Palestinian leaders are also meeting with U.S. officials this
week. Cabinet minister Hanan Ashrawi left this weekend to
meet with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and U.S.
Middle East coordinator Dennis Ross.
Arafat deputy Mahmoud Abbas and top Palestinian negotiator
Saab Erekat plan to come to Washington for meetings with
Albright and Ross after Netanyahu's departure.