March 15th, 2010
12:48 PM ET

Report: Israel, U.S. ties worst in 35 years, official says

Israel's ties with the United States are at their worst in 35 years, the country's top envoy to the United States was quoted as saying Monday.

Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, made the remarks in a conference call to the country's consuls general Saturday night, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported.

His comments came as the United States harshly criticized Israel for announcing new settlement construction in disputed East Jerusalem territory while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set up a team to investigate the timing of the announcement, which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "insulting" to her country.

The United States has asked Israel to "do something significant" to show that it is serious about moving toward negotiations with Palestinians, a U.S. official and an Israeli official told CNN. Specifically, the United States asked Israel to rescind the decision on the settlement project in East Jerusalem, the sources said.

State Department Deputy Secretary James Steinberg delivered that message Friday in a meeting with Oren, and Clinton reiterated it in a phone call with Netanyahu, the sources said.

"It's not about words any more," said the U.S. official, who could not speak on the record because of the sensitive nature of the diplomacy. "We need to see some concrete steps."

Earlier, Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said he could not confirm whether Clinton presented Israel with a set of demands.

Netanyahu was focused on trying to "calm things down," Regev said.

Speaking Monday during an event at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Netanyahu argued that such construction has been going on for decades and does not hurt Arabs.

"In the last 42 years, there has not been a government that has limited the building in Jerusalem," he said, citing several suburbs of the city. "The development of these Jewish neighborhoods never hurt in any way the Arabs in East Jerusalem and did not come on account of them."

He added there is broad agreement such neighborhoods will remain part of Israel in a final peace agreement. "We will continue to keep Jerusalem as an open city for all the religions," Netanyahu said," a city where Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims live in coexistence, enjoy freedom to worship at their holy sites."

The Israeli announcement of construction in Ramat Shlomo came during Biden's visit last week. It complicated U.S. efforts to set up so-called proximity talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the latest attempt to nudge the two sides back toward talking directly.

Biden condemned the decision, calling it "a step that undermines the trust we need right now."

–CNN's Kevin Flower contributed to this report.

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soundoff (322 Responses)
  1. shon

    Shame on Obama !!!

    Go after Iran – not israel !!!

    March 15, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lig Lury

    What's better these days? Being an ally of the US or its enemy?

    How does the US treat its allies – Poland, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Ukraine, South Korea, Japan and now Israel?
    By humiliating, reneging on its promises, disregarding its treaties, abandoning them.

    How does it treat its enemies – Iran, North Korea, Libya (who recently called for Jihad against Switzerland!), and to some extent Russia and China (maybe not enemies, but certainly competitors on the world stage)?
    By appeasing, accepting, generally rolling over, turning a blind eye at anything they do.

    So what's better these days?
    What is the world to understand?

    Who will be the next to be abandoned by the US and president Obama?
    Will India be abandoned against Pakistan?
    Will it be another former-Soviet country, following Georgia and Ukraine against Russian influence?
    Will it even be puppy-dog-UK, in one of its conflicts and regions of alleged influence (It seems the Falklands may b back in play soon)?

    Will it eventually be the US itself?

    March 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. liberalcrusher

    Obama even managed to screw this up. Is there nothing that this man isn't going to break in his 4 years as President?!

    March 15, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. StanfordCardinal

    The most ridiculous thing about all of this is that Israel keeps talking about the "unfortunate" timing of the announcement of these new settlements, but that discussion misses the point entirely. This has nothing with the "timing of announcements", but has everything to do with the fact that settlements/colonies continue to be built in the first place! There are over 300,000 Israeli settlers/colonizers in West Bank in what is a clear violation of international law and UNSRC 242.

    Why is no one pointing this out? The largest obstacles to peace in Israel/Palestine are settlements. As long as these illegal settlements exist and aren't actively dismantled, there is no hope for peace. The United States must pressure Israel to abandon its policy of colonization and it can probably do so by making our annual aid conditional on the resolution of this issue.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Alfred A. Griego

    Netanyahu precipitated this crisis. But of course a segment of American society will blame the Bama administration. Netanyahu is no more interested in a Palestinian state than the man in the moon. He dlliberately is pushing building Israeli housing in the West Bank even though he knows that this is a "killer" to peace with moderate Palestinians. We need to rethink the 200 million+ aid. Of course there will be a firestorm in Congress especially from the right about how we are letting our "ally" down. This will also be followed by Netanyahu visiting certain U.S. groups to lobby for his plan.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    They took an Israeli soldier hostage you boneheads. How about the Palestinians show they want to work towards peace. Return the soldier and then talk to Israel. And no, I am not a jew, just a realist.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. northwest DC

    It would be wonderful if the US wasn't led around by Israel like a dumb beast. The settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank are a hard core racist bunch, and we shouldn't be supporting them. Period.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alfa Dog

    Why do we continue to put up with the antics of Israel? We call them an ally, but why? They spy on the US, attack US warships, cost the US billions in aide, make the US the enemy of the Islamic world and provide not one single positive thing for our benefit.

    We need politicians with the strength to write off the Jewish vote and do the right thing: cut Israel loose.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    There's no reasoning with them. God promised the Middle East to them, said they are his chosen people. What can you say to someone that sincerely believes that?

    March 15, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Paul, CA

    What do you expect from this administration which coddles terrorists. The relationship we have with Isreal will endure and survive this capitulating president and his never ending desire to be crowned the king of peace. There are certain group on this planet which will never accept peace on any terms other than their own and unfortunately, we have asked one of our strongest allies to again bend over backwards to satisfy Obummer's ego and the destroy Isreal mentality of the Palestinians. Stick to your guns Isreal. The majority of the American people are behind you no matter what this administration says. BTW, i am neither Jewish nor Republican. I am not even an Independent. I am a Democrat, sick and tired of being represented by this "on the job training" president. Please God, one term is all that America and her allies can tolerate. One and Done!!!

    March 15, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. shawn

    I thought Obama was loved around the world. What is happening?

    March 15, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Miami Fan

    US interest and Israel interest are not the same, a continuation of Israel occupation of the territories and the unconditional support of US to racist Israel policies are not in the best interest of our country. It is Israel our friend? With friends like that we don't need enemies.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. elvis

    about time...they are just as bad as the Muslims!

    March 15, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. sam

    Its about time , Most of our problem is from our blind support to Isreal.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. American2007

    what is AIPAC?

    March 15, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
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