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. Jeff

    U.S should stop giving $11M a day to Israel to send a strong msg that either you follow our directions, or we cut your funding. We are closing schools in our country and supporting you guys, but if you dont listen to us, then go find another one to bail you out.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Will H.

    So the U.S. tries to pressure Israel into actually pursuing peace, and Israel says our relations are deteriorating.

    Why do we need this country again?

    March 15, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Arif

    US needs to be more straight forward to Israel. US has to show now how much it cares for the world peace. US need some more guts and courage.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Abdul Aziz

    Nothing has changed. It is not the first time Israeli government did what it did. It is probably the first time our country's reaction was so strong.
    From Israel's point of view, it is business as usual. People will make some noise, and they will forget soon. As long as Israel has a strong lobby here that will defend them no matter what, there is nothing for Israel to fear, and no meaningful consequences to be expected.
    We'll just have to wait and see if the noise we are making is a genuine reaction to Israel's arrogance and continued disregard to human rights and international law, that will make a difference, or if it is going to be just part of the international policy game.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Abe Qutub

    Better Late than never !!

    We have given Israel our treasure our arms ,and our unquestioned support no matter how abusive thay've been to the Palestinians !! What we reaped is the hatred of the Arabs,and now an Iraeli slap in the face !!

    Our immoral support of a racist state like Israel is coming home to roost !!

    March 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. wiliam jackson

    What Is Our Goverments Problem That they Can't Criticize Israel ?What Is Their Problem?
    This Country, The United States Of America Comes First, Don't Let Us Get Mixed Up In Something
    We had nothing To Do With, There Are Two Sides To All Stories, If Both Are Wrong Say So.

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

    "Honesty is the Best Policy", let US understand it on time. The world need to be honest at all levels from personal deal to national deal. Let us make our diplomacy more honest !!!

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

    Why are we taking sides in a conflict half way across the world? Cut off all aid, let these people kill each other for their own idiotic religious reasons

    March 15, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. wcnea567

    Its best for US to abandon a sneaky "friend" like Israel. We don't need or want that kind of friend.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lance

    With the billions of dollars in aid Israel has received from us we have every right to demand results. With a military that dominates the region and has a palestinian kill ratio of arguably 40:1, they are more than capable of taking care of themselves. This country can no longer afford the cost of being the worlds police.

    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."

    March 15, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Israel... The light in a sea of darkness...

    It is sad to see a country with so much inspiration for the betterment of the human race be subjected to these restrictions. Israel is a beam of light in a sea of darkness. Many of the arab countries are working daily to build bigger bombs to blow up Israel and all Israel wants to do is progress....

    This is sad... The US should be supporting the Jewish state in all its progress. To remove the terrorist countries Israel must expand. Palestine is a terrorist country and should be pushed into the water.....

    March 15, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JC

    Wow. Obama sure has done a great job with international diplomacy, hasn't he? So much better than Bush? Yes, piss off one of your best and historically most important allies (Israel).

    March 15, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. RussH

    We have given everything to Israel for years, now they need to start thinking about doing their thing by themselves. We have enemies because of our backing them up and when we say you should not do something, they they need to do it. Otherwise, lets drop them and see what happens after its all said and done.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Texan

    This is ridiculous. The real issue is that the Palestinians don't want Israel to exist at all. What has the U.S. asked the Palestinians to give up recently? Absolutely nothing. Compared to the countries that surround it, Israel is a tiny piece of land. Why don't those countries offer some of their land, if they care so much about a future Palestinian state? The truth is they want to perpetuate the fighting until Israel is gone. The terrorism that Israel is subjected to on a daily basis requires some sort of buffer against those who would do them harm. The U.S. is extremely insensitive to the needs of Israel at the moment. This enrages me!

    March 15, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chakravak

    Hope U.S and Israel are not playing "good-cop bad-cop" with Palestinians.
    The U.S credibility is damaged in Arab world for very long time.
    Is this a deliberate attempt by Israel to restore America's image as a friend
    of Arabs ?

    March 15, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
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