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. Mike

    I love how everyone is interpreting this as (paraphrased), "Yay we are finally not supporting Israel, which is a useless ally and is unfair and doesn't want peace." This view just goes to prove how ignorant of history most of the American public is. Israel has been our strongest ally in the region and will continue to be. They are an important economic and military ally, besides the fact that they share similar western beliefs, with a political system rooted in democratic-type ideals promoting freedom and rights. Anyone who has studied this region/conflict in any depth would realize that Israel is rarely the instigator in this conflict. They were legally given this land by the United Nations and Britain in 1948 and have been attacked from arab neighbors countless times since. They fended off these attacks nearly effortlessly and even though they could have taken much much more land, went ahead and gave it back to the nations that they rightfully won through war (war that they did not initiate). I am referencing Sinai peninsula in Egypt and Golan Heights with Lebanon/Syria.

    Seriously people: it is pathetic. The terrorists/Islamic extremists make propagandist arguments that they will attack the US because of Israel, and you are dumb enough to believe it? This is exactly what the Islamic extremists want you to believe, because they hate all western nations and beliefs, including Israel and US. Go learn the facts, study the history before making wide-sweeping statements about how terrible Israel is.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. paul

    I finally understand why Obama won the nobel peace prize.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. manu

    Its the last time hilary clinton will have a bit of power..... let her babble a bit....after this ,,,,obama and hilary both are out of power ...i am sure of that....

    March 16, 2010 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. mcgavock

    As Jefferson once said:

    "I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property and lives of their people."

    "I sincerely join... in abjuring all political connection with every foreign power; and though I cordially wish well to the progress of liberty in all nations, and would forever give it the weight of our countenance, yet they are not to be touched without contamination from their other bad principles. Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto."

    Posted by: Lance

    Very true words we should have followed by. Maybe one day we will...

    March 16, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. candy shoaf

    israel disgusts me. the people stole the country. they abuse all the former occupants. they are arrogant and obnoxious.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. realist

    America honestly ask yourself who would you rather have living next door, Jacob or Ishmael. Someone who may be related to the killing of The Christ, or or someone who could be a suicide bomber. Someone who thinks your daughter should have no rights, or someone who's religious history honors women. Someone who's religion proclaims kill all infidels ( non muslims ) or someone who says honor all who believe in God. Someone who believes in equality, or someone believing in clan structure and dynasty. The richest countries in the Middle east are welfare states where Royalty controls. The Palestinians have better education, health care and standard of life, under Israel oppression than most of the other Middle East Nations, let's bring them here to be our neighbors. Get real

    March 16, 2010 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gamsy MacDErmott

    Build Israel Build !!! It seems that this is the only thing that makes the terrorists want to sit down at the negotiating table. Build.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. Crunchy

    This is all a big put-on and a show that the US is upset with Israel. Do not for one minute believe any of what you are witnessing. Close ties between two nations that have absolute blank checks for each other will not be impacted because one of them has made an announcement that is "difficult" for the other to digest.

    As long as evangelical Christians and neo-cons support Israel and the Jewish Americans lobby for Israel, Us cannot do anything. Israel completely controls the US and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. mitch

    Why are we supporting, funding and defending this rogue state that has not a single drop of oil and insults us with impugnity?

    I always remember being told it was so we have a democracy in the area to promote stability. Have we ever seen stability being promoted from Israel? All we have seen is the serious prospect of terrorist acts, now and the future. All the hatred toward the US from arab nations stem from our support of the zionist latter-day squatters.

    All of the terrorist complications are borne of the US support of Israeli defense. This from a country that sank a US ship during one of the many Israeli conflicts.

    Wake up America, start reducing the deficit by abandoning Israel to the ends which its own actions shall lead.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. Robeson

    2000 years ago, Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and told the Jews to love their enemies. He died soon thereafter.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. Koshlendra Patel

    I appreciate the fact the Obama Administration is getting away from the politics where we blindly side with israel no matter what. As the facts are israel has just as blame in the issue as anyone else involved and our siding with them is only because of Jewish money playing a large part in american politics.

    We need to realize for once that Israel is not the country thats askin for peace and not getting it. They are the constant agressor, not that id support the palestinians completely either but Israel needs to see that every unfair and unlawful move they make will have its consequences and that they wont get blindly backing for everything they pull.

    Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. How does anyone think the terrorists got power. The palestinians wouildnt have welcomed their leaders as terrorists if it hadnt been for the actions and opression applied to them by israel and foriegn forces.

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

    Israel should not bite the hand that feed them.
    i am with American position . its about time we sided with the truth.
    All the world dose not recognize the occupation of the west bank.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. BrotherJohn OfDallas

    "In the last 42 years, there has not been a government that has limited the building in Jerusalem," Netanyahu 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."

    Oh really? Seriously? Contemporary middle east history says otherwise. Military action againsst youhful civilian rock throwers is not only overkill, but a serious outrage. c'mon, israel, split the land wth them and watch the world flock to you.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. whatever dude

    Wish the money we uselessly dump into israel could have paid for my essential $125.00 Dr. visit today that my job WITH a health insurance plan does not cover.(either that or risk seizure) I take no extreme position in middle east. Can we please take care of ourselves first. Pretty please?. Thanks US, love you for so much and hate you for so much too.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. chikereze Anadi

    supporters of Isreal are liers. They claim that Isreal is the only dempocracy. What a lie.
    They NEVER allow the Arabs living in Isreal to vote.
    Yet they are democratic.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
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