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. HRM

    It would appear that this is really just about money. The developers want to make the buck and don't really care about anything else. Sound familar? Right wing culture at work. We just saw what the right wing did for the US. I hope the Jewish state can servive its own greed.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. Scott

    Under Prime Minister Netanyahu Israel has already given up more sttlements than his predecessors. He has done more to ease relations with Palestine than his predecessors. It is ridiculous that the US is berating him for this. The area that the settlements are going in is not even disputed among Palestinians and has been in the works for years. The USA is turning its back on Israel for something so trivial but the USA is backing up a Palestinian regime that is firing rockets and mortars into Israel every single day killing innocent Jews. What needs to happen first is to stop the daily rocket attacks.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. Beatrice wright

    Israel is like a spoiled child, and for decades the US had been the enabling parent. High time to lay down some rules and cut off the allowance. When Israel is not acting like a spoiled child, it is the neighborhood bully. Listening to nightly news of Israel is like watching a burly man kick a helpless puppy. Very sad that it has come to this, and disgusting, really.

    March 16, 2010 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. Christer Friberg

    I think the whole world is gradually turning against Israel with their arrogant behavior. I agree about the terrible atrocities against the Jewish people through history and try to understand the reasons. However, the attitude that Israel shows towards the Palstinian people is horrifying and I understand why the Arab world won't recognise the Jewish State with such behavior. It is time for Israel to become part of the Middle East, time to integrate into the region and show itself being a good neighbour nd partner for peace in this volatile region.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. Johhnnyt

    Israel has to stop acting like the spoiled child, that does what it wants and has to start listening to reason.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. Matthew Paul McCaffery

    I believe it is time for the United States to stop acting as the world's mediator. Whenever we get involved with the diplomatic process in the Middle East we just wind up being cast as the meddling bad guys. Enough is enough! It’s time for the rest of the world to start acting like big boys and girls, play nice and handle their own business.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. JohnZkn

    If the Jewish people were to have attained a piece of land the size of a pebble, it would still be disputed and people will still want to take it away. Look at a map of the world and realize how much land the Arabs actually have compared to the Jews.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. Christiani

    America should take care of America. Let's take care of our own first! We don't own anything to anybody and we have enough problems of our own to continue to carry any other country on our backs. Enough is enough. Put America first!

    March 16, 2010 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. Sean from California

    "Israel's ties with the United States are at their worst in 35 years," about time! And I pray that it keeps going worst until the American people finally realize that Israel's zionist government is the root cause of all the problems in the middle east. We need to stop giving our hard earned billions in tax dollars to this horrible regime.

    March 16, 2010 at 3:56 am | Report abuse |
  10. Barry

    We need to keep this pressure on Israel. They have been in violation of too many UN resolutions and have been guilty of the most egregious attacks in Gaza and the occupied territories..... And would the religious nuts please stop quoting the bible. It was written by people, not God! The land in question is Palistine and was carved up by the British and Americans without proper consideration for the people living there. It's was a terrible injustice and the Israelis have shown themselves to be less than reasonable in all aspects of coexistence. Stop funding them from America.

    March 16, 2010 at 4:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dude

    You take peoples homes, businesses, farms, and property. You take away their autonomy and turn them into refugees. Then when they retaliate, label them terrorists. This is what has happened to the Palestinian people. What Hitler did in Germany almost a century ago does not legitimise Israel's actions. It is high time the international community force Israel to abide by international laws, UN resolutions, and international laws of armed conflict.

    March 16, 2010 at 4:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jenny

    The land belongs to the Israelites, It has been given to them by God. They will not be moved – and they do not need America. Eventually China, Russia, the middle eastern muslim countries will all rise up against Israel and America will be too small to help – Israel has God and God is greater than all the nations – Israel will never lose their land again.

    March 16, 2010 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Z

    I just want to mention that Israel and the US are NOT allies. The two nations have no written mutual defense agreement or any other such treaty. If Israel wants to continue to benefit from billions of US aid then let's see a real written agreement that stipulates Israel's responsibilities to its benefactor. Let's finally make Israel our ally.

    March 16, 2010 at 5:02 am | Report abuse |
  14. Sosodabull

    Israel has the right to do what's good for Israel not what's good for other countries

    March 16, 2010 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. joshua

    obama will bring war on israel.
    if obama and his people will turn them back on israel, the arabs will think that israel is week and will start a war on us the israeli people.

    March 16, 2010 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
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