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. MajorTom

    What Biden did, and Clinton followed up on was totally without a doubt the right thing to do. Time and time again we've seen both sides, the Israelis and Palestinians, say they're going to do something when they sit down with us. Both sides, time and time again, do otherwise. There's no accountability taken and no one holds them accountable. Look how far it's gotten them. No where. Both sides demonize the other side when both sides are to blame.

    Kudos to Obama and his administration for acting as true advocates for peace. Both sides need to be praised and held accountable for marked successes and failures. Doing otherwise is clearly a one-sided mockery of the peace process.

    AND, after the Bush years, where the Israelis could do no wrong, it's no wonder the Palestinians and Muslims in the rest of the world pointed to this supposed Israeli/Palestinian peace process with anger and a sense of futility. I'm so thankful this administration is acting in the interest of peace, not in the odd Israeli expectation of blind support despite continuous breaches of their agreements.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. joe

    it shows clearly that he israeli gouvernment lives in it's own world, where building
    settlements is mutch more important than peace.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Texana

    The Obama administration has shown its true colors: hatred of Israel. Perhaps the 78% of the American Jews and those who are pro-Israel who voted Democratic for Obama will think before doing so again. I am not the first to note that Obama himself seems to grovel to America's enemies and have harsh words for our long-time allies. Israel NEVER promised to stop building in Jerusalem in a JEWISH neighborhood. The so-called offensive announcement was simply step four in a seven step process to approve building-builiding that if approved would not start for at least three years. NOTE PLEASE that Israel left every square inch of Gaza in a step toward peace and was immediately attacked by suicide bombers and thousands and thousands of rockets all aimed ONLY at CIVILIANS. For years until finally Israel got sick of it, responding with Operation Lead Cast. The harsh words to our ally, the only Democratic country in the Middle East is way out of line. It appalls and sickens me. Obama, be honest: Israel has time and again offered even MORE than the Palestinians asked only to have peace offers rejected. If you want to get tough with someone, start with the Palestinians. Biden's handling of the matter was rude, unprofessional and out of line. Period.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    There is already a Obamapeace, Arafat and Obama have received Peace Nobel Prize.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Harold Trainer, USAF RET

    We need to stop supporting Israel. They are the cause directly or indirectly of all of our problems in the Middle East and beyond. They are not the Jews of Exodus. They have brought this problem on themselves and ultimately they will lose and I do not want the U.S. to support them with our resources unless they change and become more amiable to the Palestinians.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark K

    US needs to stay neutral in this matter. We should stop giving these thugs 7 millions dollars a day. Its time to start caring for America and not APAC.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. lynn r evans

    A significant and impactful action by the U.S. would be to downgrade State of Israel's bonds to less than investment grade . The most significant buyers of Israel's dept are U.S. Banks. If they can not or will not but or renew this dept. the leverage would be serious. The pressure to buy these bonds by Israel over the years has been unbelievable . Follow the money trail .

    March 15, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    This just might be the best thing i've heard all year. Israel has done NOTHING for the USA except get it into fights with all its enemies. Good riddance Israel

    March 15, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brad

    How about we go one step further and sever all ties? Pretty much anything a country can do wrong, Israel does it. No longer worth our time or association.

    March 15, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Auntie Sam Height

    Kick the Yids out of Palestine. They stole it! Let them settle in Antarctica. If global warming is actually real, they'll get what's coming to them over the next few decades!

    March 15, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gregg

    Let them build where ever they want.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tim ryan

    Another fine example of our great leader. Isreal is The only democracry in the Mid-East and long time ally. One thing our enemies and allies have in common they think we are too weak. There is nothing stopping Iran to Nuke Isreal.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    "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."

    This is rubbish. Why? Because it contains the word "religion."

    There is no peace with religion. There never has been, never will be.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Alice Pence

    I think the USA needs to get some moral, intelligent people into our own gov. As our own country is declining and these US top officals are insulting the very ones they are representing, the American people.

    Isreal has every right to build where they are building and we had better be supporting them instead of insulting them.

    We are the ones in need of the gov. overhaul!!!

    "God will bless those who bless Isreal AND HE WILL CURSE THOSE WHO CURSE ISREAL"!!!

    God is the ultimate One in control.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. steve

    Didn't see this coming from the Obama administration

    March 15, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
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