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. Jack B.

    I know this won't be a popular thing to say, but personally I think the Palestinians can get bet at this point in time. Between them and the terrorist groups they ally themselves with that surround Israel and are constantly lobbing rockets nd mortars at her civilian population in explicit attempts to disrupt ANY peace settlement or negotiation that the world FINALLY gets going, I think it's fairly obvious they aren't the least bit interested in living peacefully with the existence of a Jewish state. Negotiating with them would be about as effective as negotiating with Al-Qaeda, you just can't reach a lasting peace with people who, or at the very least with whom's leadership, are deadset on the annihilation of your civilization and way of life. We should just let he Israelis kick them all out of Israel, maybe they'd be a little more sympathetic and open to peace possibilities a few generations into their own forced diaspora. Or maybe they wouldn't, but it wouldn't be the same level of problem it is now with them inside Israel's borders, at least.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bravo

    no wonder they're not serious about a peace deal...they want to grab as much land before they sign on the dotted line.


    March 15, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CR

    Israel's wingnut government acting like spoiled children. Glad the U.S. is pushing back. It's long overdue.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. freedom

    US needs to cut Israel loose, they wouldn't exist today without the US backing, this is another prime example where religions get in the way of common sense, the world would be more peaceful if they pulled completely out of Jerusalem, better yet relocate all of Israel to some secluded island & don't give any military support or they will keep annexing something in the name of some Christain belief or right of ownership. No matter it's military might Israel wouldn't last 2 years without US backing and the rest of the world knows this, that's one of the reason they detest the US so much. Take care of the US and let the rest of the world take care of themselves as well.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. joey

    "Report: Israel, U.S. ties worst in 35 years, official says"- good

    March 15, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nick

    Every American should be outraged at the treatment of the Vice President and also the general attitude the Israeli Government has . We the taxpaying Americans have been paying a heavy price monitarily and in lost friendship with the Arab World , by siding with Israel at EVERY turn.
    Thats the gratutde we get .

    March 15, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tedon

    US – leave middle east alone. Bring back troops from Afganistan and Iraq. That would hasten peace.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. poptoys

    i cant believe this administration if we no longer have any allies and all are enemies hate us the same we cant get normal health care because this president wants politics to go first and our health second with extreme changes instead of some basic reform to bring down costs the economy stinks after spending 2 trillion dollars why the heck did i vote for this president! i will be voting republican next time around

    March 15, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    When Jews have reached true equality in the US is when Israel should begin to trust us.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |

    In 1954, Israel sponsored bombings against US and UK interests in Cairo aiming to cause trouble between Egypt and the West.[9] This operation, later dubbed the Lavon Affair, cost Israeli defense minister Pinhas Lavon his job. The state of Israel (where it is known as "The Unfortunate Affair") finally admitted responsibility in 2005.[10]

    March 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rich

    Perhaps Israel would be better behaved if we stopped the flow of money to it from the U.S.; they probably feel entitled to the billions in charity we give them each year. That'll get their attention.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Will

    Good news!

    March 15, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. poptoys

    i know that its really complicated this whole issue of if these lands are really part of east Jerusalem or not after the whole mess in 1967 where Israel was attacked on all sides but it sounds pretty crazy to me that were demanding israel not even to plan on building on lands that they consider part of their capitol while every single day rockets still land in israel from the Palestinians i sure hope here if mexico was shooting rockets into texas that we would not make peace untill those rockets stopped coming in why are the demands so one sided?

    March 15, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ron San Bruno, Ca

    I believe its time that the US quits accepting Iseral's unwillingness to begin and follow throught with participation rather then seperation . The Middle East will never be cohesive until Iseral quits using the Pity Card . I have always supported Iseral up until now, and its time we put them on notice . President Obama from what I believe is a man of peace, and the only way too succeed in this world is to join it .

    March 15, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. freeman

    I hope the american people wake up from this uneven relationship. Israel becomes a parasite and is dragging the USA in needles wars, destroying its international standing, inviting terrorist attacks and destroying its economy. Stop listening to your Jewish politicians whose loyalty are with Israel first and USA only secondary.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
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