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. dawn

    Israel has a right to build anywhere they want, anytime they want, in their own country. They do not need the "permission" of the United States.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Richard G Rummings

    in 15 years there will be peace. The arab nations will not have fuel to bargin with, they also have no money to support terrorism. You would think they would invest in their future insted of making war. I think the SUN has burt their brain cells. I sure would not piss of israel Iran. You might find a nuke down your throat!

    March 15, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. thewhitewash

    Israel didn't just slap Joe Biden in the face, they slapped all Americans in the face.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MikeG

    Israel is the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Why? Israel's GDP is one of highest in the world right now. I wonder what the US can do with extra $3.2 billion dollars a year? I'm just saying....

    March 15, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John Kerley

    In my 71 years of life, I have never heard of the USA being insulted by Jews building apartments as Secretary Clinton has claimed. She should be ashamed for condemning a nation for their own building programs in one of their own cities.

    JEK

    March 15, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kKaufman

    Excellent first step Mr President. We should slap Israel harder with that insult! America should never let itself slapped , especially by a country that we support with our taxes!

    March 15, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Manan

    Finally, someone got balls to standup against Israeli arrogance. I am proud of the fact that Obama/Clinton took a stand and not give in to the dirty politics Israel is playing. It is about time Israel learn if they don't want to play fair then they will be left alone to deal with the mess. If then want peace, they need to negotiate and not repress and bully the Palestinians. The more walls Israel builds through the farms and neighborhoods of Palestine, occupying their villages, the uglier it will get. Israel is alienating common people by constant show of force, it don't care that the god promised them the holy land, nobody give a shit about it, specially not the Palestinian people who are loosing their farms and villages. It about time Israel come to reality of 21st century and get on with the negotiations.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chuck

    If the Palestinians actually believe they are going to get east Jerusalem as a capital they are delusional. Israel will never let that happen and has been building housing there for decades. It would be a disaster for the Jewish people. Jerusalem is Israel. Vice President Biden"s condemming Israel is just political pandering to save face with the Arab world. With all the threats Israel faces this is not the time for the USA to turn it's back on our only true ally in the region. Of course Israel is distrustful of the current administration that has gone out of it's way to visit other Middle East Muslim countries. Why hasn't our President gone personally to Israel yet?

    March 15, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. okoye

    Any body that supporting Palestinian are anti Christ, because the land was give to Israel by God who own the earth? is not God that created land? then he gave the land to Israel and his people because God come from Israel and no body will take that Land from Israel fighting Israel will just be like you fight Christ himself because the war you must loos it, let OBAMA face health care and leave Israel alone to complete there building why so many noise? all the war machinery USA are using is build by Israel the second world war was won by Jews by there atomy bomb they build by Jews OBAMA face your heath care bill don't fight God i warn you again and again don't fight God

    okoye warn

    March 15, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jim

    Let's see how Israel exists once the US lets the world know they will no longer provide aid to Israel. Those of you dillusional enough to believe that Israel can survive without the backing of the US better give serious thought to a world without the support of the US and an Israel surrounded by nations well armed. I can't believe some of the irrational comments from some people here. The truth is that as long as Israel occupies land not given to it by the international community, they are criminals and in violation of international law. The US will not long allow itself to be allied with a criminal nation and will one day e forced to make a decision to either support international law, or support an Israel that has given back east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank, or cease to support Israel. This is not a US decision, Israel will invite the action taken by the US. The only question is whether the US will be satisfied with its proclamations, or will back these up with action..

    March 15, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sam

    Strange thing about the postings I am reading is the assumption that Israeli is a single thing. That is no more true than saying that an American is a single thing. Both countries are diverse, and, as democracies have governments whose approach may alter radically from administration to administration.

    As an American Jew I see Avigdor Lieberman and Hamas as mirror images whereas the more centrist Palestinians and Israelis have much in common and an incentive to end the violence–unlike their more radical countrymen whose careers profit from continued conflict.

    The situation reminds me of the quotation attributed to Mark Twain–always do what is right, you will ingratiate some and astonish the rest.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Richard G Rummings

    raise Reagan fron the dead! He will take care of the problem. He didnt have time when in office. He got the UUSR to fold

    March 15, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Richard G Rummings

    USSR (sorry

    March 15, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. maria

    I hear let support Israel but are we suppode to support them even when they wnat to jump off a cliff? I think support has its limits

    March 15, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Al

    Israel's announcement of expansion during Biden's visit was horribly arrogant. The U.S. has done nothing but support this country since its creation. Israel does not want peace with the Palestinians and this is obvious.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
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