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. mike

    Israel has been at war for over 4,000 years. Their government will kill anyone to avoid losing any support from their people. After all they killed Christ because they were afraid of his power over the people. The government of Israel are the actual antichrist of this world. The people of Israel deserves a better government. As long as Israel continues to have their corrupted government there will never be peace in that region. The good people of Israel will be the ones to suffer from the actions of their government. The government of Israel would even kill their own people if they saw they were turning on their own government. Its sad but very true. Watch closely for the next two years and you will soon see for yourself how evil the government of Israel really is. The US should stop all ties with Israel before they again stab the United State in the back as they have done many times before. Why are we so stupid to not see this.

    March 16, 2010 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. onyi

    As far as am concerned, the whole territory and even more belongs to the isreali. they should go ahead and build as many settlement as they want. the land was given to them as their inheritance. mark it, they will dominate at the end of the day, the whole teritorry and even more there shall pocsess, cos it is their's at the 1st place. the profecy has been given, and it is coming to fulfilment and there is noting anybody can do about it.

    March 16, 2010 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. TisTimeWeDefySpecialInterests

    Sounds like there are people who believe that they are God's chosen tribe. It's affirmative action on a heavenly scale. Hitler believed that he was God's chosen one. The zealots have lost sight of humanity waiting to get ahead of the queue by telling everyone that they have a "special pass". Manipulating the media and power to mete injustice with a venom is not going to bring peace. Don't use my tax payer dollars to finance your "fast pass".

    March 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Barry

    The US and Israel are like two schoolyard bullies in the region. We need to move away from this two-faced country called Israel. What kind of democracy treats the minority with such contempt? When Israel was formed a few decades ago it swore to uphold the law for all, and to enforce freedom for all of its people. It has failed miserably in this endeavor – and with blatant contempt for anyone who sees it and calls them on it. Americans need to wake up. I hope the White house continues the pressure.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. WW2 Vet

    Mike # 317 is voicing the same ignorant and vicious antisemitism that has been behind the slaughter of millions of innocent Jews for the past 2,000 years. Any Biblical scholar knows that the sign over the cross says that Jesus was killed by the Romans for claiming to be King of the Jews. The Jews under Roman occupation did not have the power to execute anyone. And remember, Jesus, Mary and all the Apostles were Jews. Following your logic we should all hate them too. As for the government of Israel being evil and the Antichrist, remember that Israel offered land for peace from 1967 don and was always turned down by the Arab states, who insisted that Israei be destroyed. Peace negotiations finally began at Oslo and an independent state was offered to the Palestinians. Arafat finally turned it down at the end of the Clinton Administration, Arafat chose instead to begin the bloody Intifada that has lasted until recently, when Israel finally was forced to put it down with force. Yes, there is a right-wing conservative government in Israel today. But the Israeli people voted out the Labor Party which supported the Clinton peace deal because all they got was rockets in return. Give the Israeli people a real peace deal including security and an independent Palestinian state and they will support it overwhelmingly.

    March 16, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Deltonia

    I am an American who pay taxes, tax money that goes to Israel every year money that could better be used here in the USA if Israel is going to treat us the USA and it's elected official like that in the wake of the 30 billion Obama agreed to give them then we need to cut off ties with them get our money back and let Israel fend for herself if she is going to insult us like that I say drop that baggage of a country and save the tax payers billions

    May 1, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
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