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. peter NYC

    Israel is VERY special to the Obama administration. So special, that while in Cairo and otherwise he professes to listen to the world, with Israel he consistently tells her what to do, DEMANDS (go fly a kite!) to do this or that. Can you hear Hillary saying about an Arab country that they are "insulting" the US ?? I thought so. Three more years to toss these clowns into history's dustbin is a long time. Can't wait!

    March 15, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jason

    Do you know who trains American soldiers to fight in Afganistan, Iraq, etc? Israeli soldiers do. Do you know who provides the best technology money can buy to the US to defend our country? Israel does.

    This is a game of poker. That's all that this is about. Hillary is bored and needs something to do. Biden is a white, old liberal and is just happy for himself that he hasn't made an embarrasing comment in the past few months. Obama is busy inviting celebrities to the white house so he can give their spouses private tours.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dan

    Sixty percent of historical Palestine is in Jordan. Where are the cries for Jordan to give up land? The Palestinians and other Arabs will not accept a Jewish homeland in the Middle East and never will. It's anti-Semtism, pure and simple. The other Arab nations couldn't give a rip about the plight of the Palestinians, except for how thay can manipulate it to their advantage.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. paul

    Finally! A president that is not selling out for Jewish vote and turn a blind eye to all the injustice done by Israel for all these years.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Maksim Shligold

    Big bad Israeli "insulted" little wimpy US. Israel is surrounded by over a billion Muslims, who are killing US soldiers as we speak, is a bully! How dare they allow Jews to multiply and have space to house their families in their own damn capital. That should never be allowed. US should ask their European "friends" on how to run a proper Jewish ghetto. Who the heck those Jews think they are?!! Democracy or something?!! US should only support tyrants in the Middle East, do not forget.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. William Marlowe

    @FiveF: Try to remember you are speaking to an international audience about "OUR" President... Show some respect please.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Craig from Pa.

    Good...it's about time..the main problems we have in the middle east are because of our support of Israel over so many years...sorry folks those are the facts...but nobody has had the balls to say it. So there it is.......

    March 15, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pimp

    Maybe if we let Israel fight it's own battles they might stop acting so powerful. If our Jesus loving country didn't wipe thier but so much we wouldn't have a Muslim -vs- Christian holy war. It would have saved the trillion+ that the GOP spent, and oh yea- our 2500 troops that were killed!!!

    March 15, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ricky

    It' about time the United States spoke out against what Israel has been doing instead of turning our heads and looking the other way not to offend them like other administrations have done in the past.

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

    How can anyone support a people who put bombs on their bodies? That is so disgusting.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tim

    I hope Israel well, and I hope the Palistinians well too. I think Israel thinks its too big than it actually is. Israel is losing support world-wide and is looking more and more like the bully of the region, now that Saddam is gone, and Iran is all by itself as the model theocracy that it is. I'm glad that Israel thinks they hit a 35 year low with the U.S. Maybe they will have a slice of that humble pie. Maybe the Israeli government will think about the result of their actions instead of doing whatever they want, however they want, and to whom ever they want, not having to worry about it because they have big brother USA to back them up. My personal opinion is that an alliance with only one side and not the other( Israel or Palistine ) is a fruitless one. Being fair to both sides and holding both sides accountable on the other hand, will produce much progress. Dont worry how many religous people will call you anti-semite or a liberal osama obama supporter. We have seen the kind of leaders those people produce...

    March 15, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Logan

    Ending ties with israel would send our nation into turmoil. They are our most import ally in the mid-east. Why should the only non muslim country in the land give up land for the muslims? Plenty of other muslim nations to do so. Our administration just goes around making everyone hate us. WE NEED TO SUPPORT OUR ALLIES NOT OUR ENEMYS. You don't see israel running planes into our towers. And we get mad at them? Hopefully Israel will be patient, for until we have a better president.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. freddie, pittsburgh pa

    anytime there is criticism of israel the cries of "anti-semite" echo off the hills. when a country's leaders do something blatantly wrong they deserve to be called out for their actions. this is true in this case as well as many other examples involving the state of israel. the united states has protected israel and recognized their right to exsist as a nation. we also gift them military hardware as well as money and what do we get in return? israeli spies have been caught conducting espionage against america as a thank you. our troops risked their lives in the first gulf war to destroy scud missile sites aimed at israel and in return we get slapped in the face by the israeli parliament anytime we ask for meaningful bilateral peace talks between their country and the palestinians. no i am not a supporter of palestine i am a supporter of peace. not until israel realizes they need the united states more than we need them will they come around and become a true partner and global friend.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Great Obama

    Thank, God. Finally a US President and his Administration that has some gall to tell Israel that it is wrong. Its time we cut ties with Apartheid terrorist state of Israhell.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brian Smith

    Continuing discord between Israel and the Palestinians undermines US security. The terrorists, who we are waging a war with, benefit from a continuation of the present state, and use the plight of the Palestinians to get funding from those who despise Israel and the US. The conservative government in Israel is ultimately undermining the security of Israel by putting off peace talks. If the US will not lead in the international arena, who will? Sometimes the best friend is the one who is brave enough to say enough is enough.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
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