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. gerrylb

    When was the last time Israel showed any respect for the rest of the world's opinion anyway? Their recent actions have me more and more convinced that they will stop at nothing until short of committing genocide against the Palestinian people.

    March 16, 2010 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Joseph

    The current administration is finally taking steps to stop being a puppet of Israel, yet people complain. With allies like Israel, who needs enemies?

    March 16, 2010 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. Paul

    And what about the Golan they stole from Syria. The USA is wising up

    March 16, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Toksy a true American

    As for most of you your hatred for President Obama has clouded your sense of reasoning. I do not know where your loyalty is? Our Vice President was humilated as a result of their action; it is something you do not do to your main ally, the United States of America. May be some of you should just move down to Israel instead. As for the politicians that were crying bloody murder, the last time I checked you were supposed to be representing US interests and that should not be negotiated. I understand some of you did not vote for them but the position that was humilated is the United States' Presidency.

    STOP THIS HATRED FOR THE PRESIDENT.......

    March 16, 2010 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. hubeee

    I can tell that some folks haven't really followed or don't want to understand this conflict. In May
    1948, approximately 13 Arab countries attacked the two day old nation of Israel. This new country was established by United Nations Mandate, partically due to the murder of 6 milliopn Jews in WWII. Over the past 50 years the Arabs have tried every-way possible, including several more wars, to exterimate or expel the Jews, without success.
    This "peace process" is just another veiled attempt.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. Fat

    @mitch i think u proved a good point when u said "taking a desolate land and turning it into a place where jews can call a home"...this "desolate" land was already a home to palestinians and then israelis came and turned it into a home for their own...i see fair written all over that and i believe the israelis should be condemned for taking what is not theirs....

    March 16, 2010 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ben Tyler

    In dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict you have to ask what it is you really want. A settlement freeze or peace. It seems most people these days automatically lump them together as if one cannot happen without the other. But if a settlement freeze was put in place in accordance to the Obama Administrations demands, its extremely unlikely that it would lead to a lasting peace in the region. Yes, you might make the Palestinians happy, but now you have half a million settlers who you just pissed off. For those who say "Well, who cares about what the settlers think", isn't that kind of what the Israelis tried with the Palestinians? The settlers would violently revolt against the Israeli government, just as the Palestinians did. Personally, I want to see peace, not a shifting of war. That’s what a settlement freeze would create.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  8. Kola Akinade

    Anyone that think the course of action the Jewish state is on must not have the love of the country at heart. No one, group of people, country or government cn oppress any group of people for ever. That empire will crumble in thier face. South Africa Apartheid government tried but failed. Isreal and it's so called friends will fail if they do not take the best hope for survival from the Obama administration. Obama is Isreal best friend, believe it or not. Wake up guys, guns and bombs cannot kill the will of the people. It never did.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. bibs

    look, you people that say isreal wages war are wrong. america(i love it) is in 2 wars right now and those countries are on the other side of the world. Currently Israel is in none and they are surounded by about 20 arab nations who all want Israel off the map. Just imagine if America was in Israel's place.
    and for those people who say Israel needs to respect its neigbors- terrorists in lebanon and the gaza strip launch rockets at israeli civilians almost every day. real mature.

    if you want a good history of israel look at 262

    March 16, 2010 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. Kola Akinade

    Israel must make PEACE with the Palestinians. They cannot continue the oppression for ever. The USA will not be able to come to their rescue if and when things blow up in their face. The whole World is watchiing Israel actions and their oppressive actions. Nethanyahu will go down as enemy of PEACE.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. Timothy

    We need to cut all ties with Isreal, let them figure it out. It is time that the world stop blindly supporting Isreal. It's becomming clear I hope to this administration that Isreal is not as innocent as it seems.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. Human Rights Activists

    Israel has shown that they do not care about human rights nor do they listen and respect the world powers including its closest ally the Americans. I want the United Nations and the quartet should start sanctions against Israel until they demolish the illegal settlements. I have to congratulate the Obama administration for being the first Administration to be serious about the conflict.Israel is slowly colonizing the region with no regards to the International law or even human rights.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. MeFromCanada

    No one has mentioned that maybe Israel is tryng to provoke Iran, so that they can eliminate that threat. They know what they are doing, I am sure of that.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. robbie

    Can a Cherokee take your house because his ancestors lived there? Israel has killed 1,400 Palestinian children over 9 years. Annexing land, forcing people into ghettoes, claiming to be "The Chosen People", collective punishment of civilians – remind anyone else of 1930s Germany? Let the US cut them loose, then they will learn to get on with their neighbors. Though Israel will spy on us and steal our technology even more then.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. EaterOfBacon

    Joe Biden could go to Israel, every single day, and denounce Israeli construction; timed perfectly with the announcements of Israel building residential structure (every single day of the week, from now until infinity) and it wouldn't actually do anything.

    It's just a few people talking on camera. That's it. Why this is so over-inflated is simply because of so many people's infatuation with the Holy Land - And what happens if someones sneezes wrong there.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
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