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. blogger

    The announcement of Settlements in East Jerusalem during Biden Visit was slap on his face and big insult to American people.
    Israel doesn't deserve the request and friendship we offer them anymore.

    Lets Stop sending billions of dollars to Israel.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John

    Israel brought this on itself by thumbing the nose at the peace process during Biden's visit to jumpstart the peace talks. It is an outrageous insult to our country and all the claims of anti-Semetism by AIPAC won't change a thing. It's high time America did more than give lip service to the peace process. W let the Israelis trash the Oslo Accords and expand illegal settlements as long as they gave lip service to the peace process. If Israel is so offended by our reaction, let them go without our aid and our weapondry and see how long it takes them to regain their civility to the Vice President of our United States. I'm outraged by their insulting behavior.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. matt

    Good for Israel the jewish people have been pushed prescuted and murdered Israel been defending themselves since world war II and American forget that the Jewish people mean alot of the United States and need to read though history some of the best technology that our boys in Iraq and Afghanistan use was invented and made in Israel and the jewish people have survived over 60 years and they can do so without the liberal messiah Osama Obama

    March 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dilbert

    Good, the U.S. needs to stop supporting Israels government.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Truth Teller

    To the rest of the world outside of the United States, it appears that America takes its marching orders from Tel Aviv, NOT vice versa.

    If The United States of America is truly an independent nation and not a colony of Israel, then it will stand up to Israel and NOT back down.

    Unfortinately, I do not believe this will happen. I believe that the United States is now an occupied country, just like Palestine.

    I believe that Netenyahoo and most of Israel truly believe what Sharon told Peres many years ago, "Do not worry about the Americans, we control the Americans, and they know it" – YISRAEL Radio October 3rd 2001.

    March 15, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob Hitchberg

    Obama needs to pick up the phone and tell Netanyahu:
    1. We have stood with Israel for over 60 years.
    2. We have had your back at the UN
    3. We have guaranteed your right to exist.
    4. We finance your military and armaments
    5. We have overlooked your crimes against your neighbors and your own Arab citizens.
    We have had enough. The American people are weary of this game of cat and mouse with the Palestinians.
    If you do not take concrete steps to create an independent and secure Palestinian state within three years:
    1. We'll come clean with the world about your nuclear arsenal
    2. You will need to find a new best friend at the UN
    3. And, finally, there will be no more sales of arms and equipment.
    4. The tail will stop wagging the dog, Bebe, Baby!

    March 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. david

    Matt your right Americans forget what the jewish people have contributed to America the Jewish people fought for America ever since the Revolution some of the best cures and medicine was invented by Jews including music and military technology that US soldiers use in Iraq and Afghanistan have been invented by jews

    March 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ben

    Soon every one know the real face of israel!!

    March 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rick

    Time to let the two sides have at it and the winner take all. Let's have a good old fashion war where there is one loser and that side will learn it's lesson and not pick a fight again. I don't see Germany or Japan starting anything with anyone anymore, do you?

    March 15, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rick E.

    The US has a responsibility to support Israel

    March 15, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rwalford79

    An old quote once said years ago, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". I am starting to think that the US Government needs to stop being such great friends with Israel, and work on making peace and ties with other Arab nations. It is not the Arabs or their religion that is the problem, its the few extremists. It is people like the Israelis that continue to oppress and murder the Palestinians blatantly and continue to make a mess with peace treaties.

    Its time this all stop!

    March 15, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jdb

    I am very pro-Israel, but even I have to admit the timing of this construction was ill conceived, and borderline, stupid. It pains me so much because of how much I care about Israel. The US is Israel's greatest friend and provides military, economic, and political support. It's time for the Israeli government to stop building (which the majority of Israelis are against) and start treating the US and the peace process with respect. As a Jew, this latest government action insulted me personally.

    PS, the Palestinians need to take the peace process just as seriously. That means to accept Israel, stop inciting violence, and no more missiles. No country would ever allow its neighbors to threaten it with missiles, ever.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bruce

    Our policy towards Israel on this is BS. Our president has aploogized to the arab world for what we did in the past, so he said. How dare we as a nation tell or ally what they can or can not do. If is was not for Israel the middle east would be much worse than now. Our cureent asdministration is a joke.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dave, Minnesota


    AIPAC bribes Senators and Representatives with campaign donations to secure $4-5 *** BILLION *** EVERY YEAR from our pockets for Israel.


    Get us out of the middle of this crazy fight. We are a party to it when we fully-fund every outrageous action of fanatical Israeli governments. It is amazing that 911 didn't happen until 2001 given how we've supported Israel. Do your own internet search on what Israeli leaders said on 9/11/2001 - THEY WERE THRILLED THAT WE WERE ATTACKED !!!!

    March 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bruce

    Israel and Palestine can live in peace so long as the jihadist like ammas is eliminated. Other than that I say to Israel, wipe the bad guys out

    March 15, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
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