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. sonnymann

    What we are seeing is Biblical Prophesy being fullfilled in our eyes; Also what is happening is not the Presidents will but God will.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Odysseus

    This is classic Israeli bargaining style, prior to any negotiations do something outragous. while everyone is feeling outraged and up in arms they stick to their guns about the outragous stance. After a while they finally back down from the outragous stance, everyone breathes a sigh of relief and no substantive issues get discussed nor negotiated.
    I'm not even interested in the issue except for that fact that it is keeping the world a hair trigger away from a nuclear outburst. Nonetheless, I've seen this tactic time and time again for the last 30 years. I wonder how come we fall for it every time?

    March 15, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chris

    First Obama reneges on the our commitment to Poland and the Czech Republic for their missile defense systems because of Russian pressure. Now his administration criticizes Israel for the sake of the Palestinians. Why are we selling out our friends for the sake of our adversaries?

    March 15, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Edward Gaddis

    It's way past the time for Israel to start acting like they really want peace.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dianna from Texas

    Israel has been defying the UN for 40 years!

    It's time to turn our back on Israel, we have paid for supporting that one state, we could have had the support of the entire middle east, but for our stubborn support of a "democratic" state?

    We need to let the region do what they will with these violators of international law.

    If our support wanes, then the natural thing will happen. They will have to give back all that land they grabbed in 1967 back to its rightful owners.

    The dislocated went from being labeled "Palestinian refugees" to "terrorists." How did that happen?

    Except for the great state of Florida, this problem would have been solved long ago.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. zev

    Wait until the Palestinians starts tearing down all your churchs, we will
    then hear all you goys begging Israel to go in and save them.
    All you who want the US to cut all relations with Israel don't have a clue what you are talking about.
    Israel please keep building.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bea

    So Isreal was called out and all of a sudden they have the worst relationshio wiht the US?:Well Good..this means someone is not taking sides in the middle east...

    March 15, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Suval

    The U S should come down on Israel loudly and hard. Israel has no interest in peace and they were totally insulting the Vice President and Mr Mitchell and our country. Until the country of Israel joins the world as a peace partner, we should not give them another dime or supply them with any more weapons. We should also ditch the 'We are you firends for life" rhetoric. They need to earn the friendship by cooperating in the peace effort. .Many of us are sick of Israel's aggressiveness and their arrogance.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jack byron

    perhaps the obama government should stop all settlements in the usa first ...that is no more house building. after all isn't the land really the natives... check your own shorts before you start critizing someone else

    March 15, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. J. Lawrence

    How many times has Israel attempted to make peace with the Arabs around them? The Palestinians continue to fight among themselves and fight with the Israelis. The area could be a very proaperous and peaceful place if not for people who train their kids to blow themselves up in the name of who knows what. The Arab states around Palestine could care less about the suffering Palestinians. If anything, they foment this on-going fight that has killed too many people on both sides. The Hatfields and McCoys are alive and well in the Middle East. And yes, yelling "anti-Semite" when this discussion comes up is much like yelling "rascist" when talking about anything African American. Both terms have been diluted by the knee jerk manner in which they are used!

    March 15, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jd

    The world is tired of seeing our leaders turn a blind eye to the unjust and unjustified ambition of the Israeli State. The issue is no longer one of political favor, but of the Palestinian people's human rights repeatedly being impinged upon by Israel. I do not attempt to rationalize the violent response and/or instigation of Israel by Palestinian nationals, but hope it is evident to any perspicacious individual to see who the true aggressor is. The time has come for an American administration to forgo allegiances forged under political pretenses.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joseph

    I see Israel referred to as an "Apartheid terrorist state" in here and other forums yet it has arabs in their parliament. How many arab nations have Jews in their parliament? (Last time I checked none). Israel has arabs serving in its military that are NOT jews. What about arab nations having jews in their military? Israel attacks the palestinians when they are attacked, later a tentative peace deal is signed and the israelis stop attacking and even remove their people from the settlements while turning over whole towns to the palestinians. Palestinians send rockets and suicide bombers to israel and they don't respond for months. Days go by and every day they attack and kill citizens at random. They raise their children to want to be suicide bombers and continue the fight. Their is no way to properly deal with this with out hitting back.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mir Kahn

    Nobody can work with Israel – even an Israeli. Israel has been looking for an excuse to break ties with the US for some years now. They already stole nuclear technology decades ago. The Likud has Congress and Talk Radio by the bal*s. No Presdient, including Obama has gotten elected in recent years without campaigning in Israel. Obama's Chief of Staff is an Israeli citizen too.

    March 15, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. WiseMan

    Let's calm down. The timing of the "building effort" announcement was very poor, and it's normal it's creating frustration in the Obama administration.
    But let's put things into perspective: CHECK THE FACTS IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:
    – this was only the announcement of a project moving into its 4th phase (out of 7 required)
    – the public has 60 days to revoke this
    – even if it is not revoked, and moves to phase 5, and to phase 6 and to phase 7, we are at least 3 YEARS away from anything happening on the ground

    In this context, the reaction of the Obama admnistration is "disproportional" (to use a term often use in diplomatic circles) to say the least.
    The Obama administration is sending positive signals to its former ennemies (first offering to "sit down with Iran" only to be ridiculed, then Syria, and just lately apologizing to Lybia's Kadhafi), and sending negative signals to its allies (Poland, Czek republic, Georgia, Israel). What will American's allies understand from this ?

    So again: the Obama administration is right to be frustrated and to apply pressure to Israel, and it is terribly wrong to take the matter to such an extreme.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. mark

    Israel has squandered a lot of opportunities for peace. The fact is that there are just as many fanatics in Israel as there are in the Gaza strip and West Bank. It's just that the ones in Israel aren't as desperate because they have the government on their side. Netanyahu is bad for Israel, bad for the region, and bad for the USA. Like a former US president said: you can't work with this man.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
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