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. Katherine Riebe

    Well-stated, that is, '"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."' Ah, finally the light shines on, that the world's traditional religions can actually co-exist and respect one another's differences. That's beautiful. I think Jerusalem, the city, should be open to other religions of the world too, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Native Americanism and so forth. Tribes from Australia would appreciate it too. 🙂

    March 15, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. klr

    It's about time! I am proud of president Obama for standing up to Israel. I hope the he will not cave under the enormous pressure.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lucky

    the U.S need to do something significat rather than telling Israel authority to do somethin.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pedro

    Is Mr. Netanyahu realy that blind to not see the reality that exits over there and that any normal person can see the truth.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    So we're gonna go screw up Israel! Our government can't even fix us!
    Just add: Joe Biden

    March 15, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. acatruth

    Considering Israel's actions against it's Arab population, it should be at an all time low! Israel does have the right to exist......but it does NOT have the right to bully, detain, kill, bulldoze houses, etc to achieve it's goals. The only reason it's military has the strength it does is because of the USA giving over $3 BILLION in military aid every year. This needs to stop, as well as the racist policy's of the government there. The real reason we have the "War on Terror" is because the Arab people see where the support and money come from, and they are angry about it.....as they should be. When will the world wake up and stop supporting this? Israel is by far the worlds largest terrorist state.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. William Marlowe

    The time for debate and dialog has long passed and the US, indeed the entire world, grows weary of Israel's continued excuses to the stopping of building settlements, especially in Jerusalem, what is truly perceived as international territory.

    Earlier, Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev stated, "The development of these Jewish neighborhoods never hurt in any way the Arabs in East Jerusalem and did not come on account of them." Obviously it has made a negative impact on the peace process in combination with insulting the Vice President of the United States and the People of the United States themselves with the timing of the announcement.

    He added there is broad agreement such neighborhoods will remain part of Israel in a final peace agreement. How is he so sure of this and why? Still they continue to build more settlements while the rest of the world demands the stoppage of all building of settlements.

    It is time we left Israel to deal with the reality of the consequences they have created and stopped supporting and indeed protecting and enabling them like a very spoiled child that continues to thumb its nose at the rest of the world.

    Get the US out of Middle East affairs and let them kill each other or find peace. Either way we don’t care as we have had enough.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ping Hu

    It is about time for the U.S. to wake up about the unjustified ambition of the Israel State, They never want a Palestinian State by their side. We pay them and help them to do it. it is time to be serious with them, if we really want the two-state plan move forward.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. zsolt

    The US should join the European Union and pressure Israel to give up its expansionism. It seems the US is realizing now that its 51st State in the Middle East is not only an expensive experiment but starting to be an embarrassing one as well – the pupil lectures the master...

    March 15, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. valwayne

    Obama is no friend to Israel. He is slowly working to change American public opinon to be against Israel. By the time he has a 2nd term he'll be ready to completely break the historic ties the U.S. has with Israel and take sides against them.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Omar

    It's about time, now if we can just stop the ridiculous amount of aid with give them maybe we'll actually see some changes in the region and some justice for the Palestinians.....

    March 15, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sarah

    FINALLY! Thank you government for finally getting something right. I hope President Obama doesn't give in to all the conservatives and the Israeli President. The Palestinians deserve Justice!

    March 15, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joel Leson

    Let me see now...Arafat recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for not making peace. Hamas is busy plotting war against the Israelis. Suicide bombers would continue to blow up inncocent civilians in Israel if they could. Rockets are fired from the Palestine side of the border when they can get away with it. Iran is supplying weapons to those who would "push the Jews into the sea." From the time of Anwar Sadat, a logical and decent man, the Israelis have tried to make peace and nothing has changed on the Palestinian/Arab side. They don't want peace and they teach their youth how to hate so that the situation in the Middle East goes on forever. And now our idiotic admiinistration has the nerve to tell the Israelis that they are "the bad guys." The one true democracy in the Middle East must listen to this "fertilizer" from Biden and Clinton? We are busy killing terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan we claim for our own safety and security, and we have the gall to tell a country smaller than Rhode Island and which has been facing terrorists ever since 1948, how to do its business. "Hillary in Wonderland" supported by "Joe the "Mad Hatter"...and the Cheshire Cat smiles on!.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Surfgillie

    I would have thought that giving up Gaza was a significant gesture or concrete step.
    No-one noticed! What's required? Israel to walk into the sea?

    About time the other side started making concrete steps.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. William

    This is just more of the Obama administration pushing away our allies and embracing our enemies. Israel is our strongest ally in the Mid-East.

    Muslims own 99% of the land in the Mid East, yet they demand Israel give of their 1% to house the Palestinians. Why doesn't Jordan or Saudia Arabia give the Palestinians the land needed. This would end the mid east crisis.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
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