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. Ben

    Israel is expanding their holdings at the expense of the Palestinians. I used to support Israel, but now I believe the Palestinians have the moral high ground in this conflict.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  2. vinu

    It is time to stop sacrificing American lives to protect Israel.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. John in Texas

    Isreal needs to stop building settlements. and actually try and move toward atwo state solution. Palistine needs to work toward it as well. Stop the fighting, set down and start working it out. Untill Isreal stops grabing up all the land they can never get anything done. Maybe the best solution for Jerusalam would be a seperate city state since 3 major relitions claim it on of the most important sites to their religion with a 3 way leadership. As for the rest, Isreal needs to quite treating the palisttinians like second class citizens. Let them have their own country and come up with a treaty thats fair for everyone. There will have to be a lot of compramise on both sides.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. edog355

    Interesting comments – I'm a conservative and I love hearing that relations with Israel are "strained". Hopefully, we will just end the relationship entirely and follow up by cutting off all aid as well. Israel can then try to sink or swim on their own – either way, life in the US will go on just fine, in fact, it will be better. This world does not need, and has never needed, Israel.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. John Simmons

    I keep hearing about how Israel is the USAs 'special friend', well, I guess that means, takes especially lots of our money. They dont seem to do anything for us otherwise except disrespect us in every possible circumstance. They made thier own enemies, we have spent billions to try to buy them peace and to support them, but the time is over. We cannot afford to pay for Israel any more. The truth is, ask any ISraeli, they think they are BETTER than Americans, and they also think we are stuipid. Time to stop being stuipid and stop paying Israel to be belligerant and annoying to the rest of the world.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. Josh

    Isreal thinks it has a choice when we tell them what to do, but in reality they have no choice.
    They are dependent on us for their defense, so if they want any more weapons they better do as their told

    March 16, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tic Tac

    Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have always been challenged by terrorists and mock countries in their region. They are an illusion. But Israel should show faith in the peace talks and do the best it can to keep them alive.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dan Herman

    Wow, I wonder how people here in the US would respond if a neighboring country was firing rockets into ours? Imagine rockets coming from Mexico or Canada? What would the US do? Sit back and try to have peace talks? Or perhaps send in all the troops we could to stop it? It's always easier to play armchair peacemaker when you're not the one who has to run into the bomb shelter with your kids every day.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Fat isreal(palestine) thinks because they have wrongfully obtained power they will abuse it in any kind. the US should know now not to have any sort of allie with them because they are merely using us to further gain power aka MONEY to eventually exterminate all the Palestinians from their home land. Whether you have issues with Muslims or not we should all be pro JUSTICE. What does it say in our pledge of alligence...LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL..that shouldnt just apply to this country only it should be worldwide..and if people want to call Palestinians "terrorists" in their own homeland than they need to go open a book and read about the history first. Wouldnt you all protect your homes and families if it was all of a sudden invaded? and this possibly means to use any resources you can because most of the basic needs are actually being kept away from you IN YOUR OWN LAND! WAKE UP PEOPLE and start realizing and doing your own research on what the real problem is and stop being puppets of what everyone else wants you to feel or think.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. Alex

    The U.S. has always supported Israel in its war crimes. Most recently the U.S. blindly supported Israel's war against Lebanon which resulted in a significant damage to public opinion about the U.S. America sends billions of dollars in forms of military aid to Israel each year. America had to stay quiet when Israel purposefully waged a genocide in Gaza right after Obama took office, knowing that he was too busy dealing with the economic problems. I'm not saying this to legitimize any terrorists' claims but let's not forget that Bin Laden has repeatedly stated that his attacks on the U.S. are in revenge of the U.S. support for Israel and thus indirectly killing innocent Palestinians. And what does the U.S. get in return for all this support? It gets hatred from the terrorists, it gets extremely negative public opinions around the world, it gets to send out billions of tax dollars each year. And last but not least it gets slapped in the face by Israel for making such a small demand.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. realist

    Anyone believing that the problems the USA is having in the Middle east is because of Israel should consider this, where else are Muslims at war and with whom, and how many Muslims are killing and have killed each other. Take the total count of all the Muslims killed by Jews and compare it to the count of Muslims who were killed by other Muslims. Finally Jews don't kill based on religious beliefs,they kill because they are motivated by self defense, not nation building, or strategic considerations. The USA has killed more Muslims in the last ten years than Israel has killed in it's entire history of modern time.

    Finally If our president allows Israel to believe it has no reason to count on the USA in it's defense, it may take steps to insure it's survival against a proclaimed policy of extermination, by the same people we ask it reason with.

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

    Its a scary game usa is playing redirecting support away from Israel. If you read this post all i can say is watch and see what happens when we break ties with israel. from the time we gave this persecuted people a place to call home, facor has been upon our land. The Land belonged to Israel before it ever belonged to Palestine. I fear we are on a downhill course with a leader who has no idea what he is doing. WATCH THE TIMES PEOPLE, AND DONT BE SURPRISED BY OUR STRUGGLES!

    March 16, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  13. linda

    I support Isreal totally, but I believe that the continued developement of setlements is wrong. It will do nothing to advanced the peace procress, which both Isreal and the Palestinians need and want.
    The issue is so imbued withn politics, which In hate, that I believe the goals of both the Isrealis and the Palistenians are not taken into account.
    I do believe that both peoples wna to live side by side in peace. this is not impossible if the radicals on each side would STEP ASIDE and alow the good will of both peoples to flurish.


    March 16, 2010 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. A.S. Hamerman

    Arabs began 5 wars against Israel. They lost each of them and the so called "friends of Israel" made sure that Israel returns every inch of Arab land. What incentive or disincentive to Arabs have not to start wars if they lose nothing and their land is given back to them?

    The US has not had a single success story in the world. 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia and their friends. Iraq–an American disaster. The US supports Israel only because it is good for the US as Israel is the only true ally it has in the Middle East.

    The US failed to persuade Iran to abandon its Nuclear program–another US dimplomatic failure. Now the President wants a political success story by forcing/bullying the democratically elected government of Israel to do someting against its interest and to make the US look good in the eyes of the Arab World. What will the US get from the Arab World in return? Pakistan, Afghanistant, 9/11, Iraq, Iran–it loooks like there is lots of potential.

    This govenment will not abandon building Jerusalem. These are all pre negotiation moves. Palestinians want to halt construction declaring that Jerusalem is not Israel's. Israel does not want to halt construction in Jerusalem declaring that it is part of the State of Israel.

    The US is playing a dangerous game. From 1948 till 1967, Jerusalem was in Jordan's control. Nobody cared that Jews could not pray in their holy places.

    It appears that President Obama is comfortable going back to those days. How unfortunate that the US turns its back to its friends.

    In the meanwhile China and Russia are arming Iran and have now begun to sell weapons to Lebanon. The US still does not get it.

    I would love to see one single Obama success story. After more than a year in office, I am still looking.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. Diogenes

    This administration has sadly exposed the fact that it is comprised of amateurs. It has ruined relations with our only ally in the middle east. It appears to me that the main complaint is one of hurt egos from Biden and Clinton. That is no way to run a foreign policy. Was that the only way to handle this mess? Is there a hidden agenda here? Are they simply currying favor with the oil sheiks and sucking up to those europeans who would like to see Israel disappear? Where is this anger when dealing with Iran? Or Hamas or Hezbollah when they fire rockets at civilians? No- it's only aimed at Israel, the only democracy in the area when they make a dumb city planning decision in their own country. Should Israel trust its security to the US against the Iranians? I wouldn't – with friends like these, who needs enemies? As a life-long democrat who supported first Clinton and then Obama, Imade the mistake of equating rhetoric with intelligence. How many days until the next presidential election? You can be sure neither Barak or Hillary will get my vote.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
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