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. Olaf Big

    With allies like this, who needs enemies?

    March 15, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mohammed Mazher Ali

    Nothing will change, it will enjoy blind support from our so called Congress members, who are just working for there masters, forget about our votes, they are more concern for Isreal, than for USA, bacause there bread and butter lies on the other side, it is shame, but fact of life.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jb

    what do you expect? the obama administration has given isreal the lowest support in 35 years. he is nothing but a muslim supporter anyway.i don't see that gasbag clinton condemning hamas for the constant suicide bombings and rocket attacks. who cares what hamas wants anyway? they are considered a terrorist organization and therfore not recognized as a government or country for that matter!

    March 15, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jon

    It is time that the US demands that Israel tow the line in the peace negotiations. Israel has no interest in peace or a Palestinian homeland. The Palestinian's land was stolen. The Zionist claim to that land is no more valid than the Native American claim to land in this country. The US needs to immediately cut off all military aid to Israel until a Palestinian homeland is established.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Josh

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

    There should be.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    Why wouldn't they be? Is anyone surprised by this? One of the first thing that Obama did when he took office was promise that the relationship we had with Isreal is NOT the relationship we will HAVE with Isreal. They will no longer have preferred status in the eyes of the U.S. THAT was not a slap to THEM???

    Obama dug this hole, now he's going to have to deal with it...or blame it on someone else as always.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. truebob

    Justifiably so. The Israelis have a "my way or the highway" foreign policy, and frankly it is getting old.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ahmed

    "The development of these Jewish neighborhoods never hurt in any way the Arabs in East Jerusalem and did not come on account of them."

    YEAH RIGHT! You are slowly expanding the settlements to throw out the Palestinians from their land. And if it's because your population is overflowing then maybe you shouldn't be paying or forcing Jews to immigrate to your country. Israel will be responsible for its own destruction. It has been treated nicely and its bad actions have been ignored by the West for too long. Now everybody is sick of Israel's actions and the world will not sit back and watch while Israel causes wars and hate between the Arabs and West for blindly supporting Israel.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. I

    Again, I ask. Why does the U.S. defend Israel at any cost?

    March 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ReadTheTruth

    even though its illegal under US law to send aide to Israel...its funny even after things like this we still send them our tax payers money when we really need it here more...

    March 15, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. joe wallst

    Israel is like the tail wagging the dog. They just keep taking and we allow it....SHAME on us.

    March 15, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mike betz

    The US has always been a strong supporter of Israel since it became a nation (again). Wavering from our long term support will have serious repurcussions on our nation. We no longer appear to be a Christian nation to the world.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. joe wallst

    Israel is the tail wagging the dog(USA). They will always keep taking as long as we back them....Shame on US.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. suziQ

    I think it's time to let Israel stand on it's own two feet. They are the most powerful country in the middle east. They don't need our protection anymore. Let them bear the brunt of their overbearing ,aggressive policies. It's not our fight.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. TisTimeWeDefySpecialInterests

    It's about time that the politicians in Washington take a strong stand against Israel's unilateral actions. The U.S's position over the years vis-a-vis Israel has seriously compromised our standing in the world. AIPAC and it's cronies have hijacked the nation in directions that the vast majority of the population disagree with. Support Israel, but not unconditionally. Killing and harassing Palestinans is not Kosher.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
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