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. FiveF

    Of corse the ties are strained, the current addministration is anti-freedom, leaving Israel to be one of the last free countrys. Be patient Israel, this addministration wont be in power long.

    March 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Louis

    We need to cut all relations with Israel. I do not condone the palastinians, but it has become quite obvious that Israel has no intention of honoring any form of peace treaties or desire to live in peace. They relish their role of persecuting the Palastinians.

    So while the rockets are deplorable, there isn't much they can do OTHER then that...obviously NOT firing them isn't working either. Enough is enough, cut the strings and let Israel go it alone. Let the best terrorist win in this fight and we'll fight the last one standing.

    March 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rob

    I very much support the US position here. everybody is getting fed up with ultra right wing jewish politics.. there are trying to turn gaza into the warsaw ghetto

    March 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. daulton

    Yes as you can all see the news service is already killing this shameful story..these people land is being taken away from them, and all they can do is sit and watch or they will be beaten and or killed. This disgusting on so many levels.

    March 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mikecnn

    israel should declare war on the usa.
    if war ensuesw, and israel wins, great israel will own the usa.
    and if usa wins, great too. america will own israel. either way israel wins.

    March 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Laura, Cleveland

    Nice to hear that America took a balanced, fair stand in this conflict, and not blindly support Israel in everything what it would do...

    March 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    Liberals don't work well with the Israelis.

    March 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JoJo

    Now I personaly wish that Iran took the initiative and launch few missiles on Israel, Israel would have retaliated, and both would have destroy eachother. The US government wouldn't have been insulted, and the whole area would have been at peace. Or the other way around for Israel to take its pre-emptive attack on Iran. The result would have been the same. That's how it's goiung to end up over there. Israel is building too many housing projects to return any, any sooner. It will take a war to solve that problem, and it will remain to be seen who, and when. And let's not expect the Palestinians to do anything about. If someone would just have armed the Palestinians, maybe the situation wouldn't have been as bad as it is right now.

    March 15, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. gf2043

    Israel has been building this specific neighborhood for 42 years, before, during and after any peace talks with the Palestinians. Several Jerusalem neighborhoods, including this one, were always out of any negotiations Israelis had with Palestinians. So what happened now? Clinton used an opportunity to verbally strike Israel so that she can gain credibility with the Arabs. It's a dirty game of interests.

    March 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Julian Chicago

    Building will continue in the West Bank and the USA government supports this. Mitchell, Clinton, and Obama know that Israel will never allow anything more than a Northern Ireland (Ulster) Good Friday Agreement arrangement in the West Bank. So the USA is pretending to be tough for the sake of looking credible to the Palestinians and Israel is looking hurt by D.C. comments to go along with the game. It is all an act to pacify the Palestinians. All the Palestinians should hope for is a homeland similar to the structure of Northern Ireland (Ulster, which has sovereignty to the UK and not the Republic of Ireland).

    March 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Stu

    There is, nor has there ever been, a city by the name of East Jerusalem (note the capital "E" in the word East). Even when the Jordanians occupied the eastern section of the city they never referred to it as East Jerusalem.

    You must be referring to east Jerusalem or eastern Jerusalem.

    March 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. lftnay2012

    I think it is essential to world peace for the US and Israel to strighten talks once and for all..Israel need the US an ally and it (Israel) also need to start respecting it's nightburs.

    March 15, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. S.P.H.

    Perhaps Israel might be more cooperative if the U.S, would stop rewarding corporations who do business with Iran? Condemnation for building, while the surrounding nations continue to destroy and kill?

    March 15, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Shawn

    Isreal should show some effort by taking the lastest settlements back. SHOW SOMETHING ISREAL!!! Isreal is really losing all American affection....

    March 15, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. S.P.H. Yerucham

    Israel builds (a nonviolent message), and is condemned. Destruction and killing continues around them without comment. Perhaps Israel would be more cooperative if the U.S. were to refrain from rewarding corporations who do business with Iran. Perhaps nonviolent action would be more effective in this world if violent action were not rewarded daily with promises of land.

    March 15, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
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