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. JohninTampa

    Netanyahu says: "The development of these Jewish neighborhoods never hurt in any way the Arabs in East Jerusalem and did not come on account of them." If that were true this would not be an issue, would it? But it is, so who does he think he's fooling?

    March 15, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. chuck hudson

    The recent new settlement constructiion is another,in a long line of arogant actions by the Israeli government reflective of its total lack of interest in or commitment to peace in the region. It should not be overlooked that Israel has a long standing commitment to espionage against the United States, notwithstanding our long history of massive foreign aid support. We must get their attention. Suspend all foreign aid immediately for one year coupled with a demand for attitude adjustment by the Israeli government. If that fails, suspend foreign aid indefinitely. They should be forced to choose between true alliance or enmity with the united States and with PEACE.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    I can't believe how much of our tax dollars go to Israel. Then they turn around and disrespect us at every opportunity.

    I hope the US government learns to stand up to Israeli arrogance.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bob garcia

    Israel has misued the United States' goodwill, and our support is routinely taken for granted and based on the blind support of American Jewish groups such as AIPAC. This latest act only fosters the creation a non-democratic so-called "Jewish" state, in which actual Jews are a minority. As they sow the seeds of their own demise, in an ironic and almost biblical sense, America (including American Jews) must re-evaluate our unconditional support and develop a new strategy for our interests.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ben

    It's about time this "relationship" were severed.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob Fleming

    "He added there is broad agreement such neighborhoods will remain part of Israel in a final peace agreement."

    How does he know that? The "agreement" he refers to, which, by the way, has obviously not been made yet, would be with the Palestinians who are having their land stolen! Why in the world would they want their land stolen? This is terrible Zionist logic that the Torah and the Jewish faith would never embrace. It's pure theft.

    It is time for a two state solution, not in 50 years, not in 30, now. If Palestinians are given half of Israel and all the rights (and name) of a state, there will be much more alienation.

    and don't say "that's just a dream, peace will never happen, let it be," that's counter-intuitive and against progress, the kind of thinking that the Civil Rights Movement fought.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. us citiizen

    why dont we just cut off all of our funding to israel. Including sales of weapons and then lets see how quickly they work this out.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. hmm

    darn we might have to start treating Israel like any other country...

    March 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob Fleming

    and it's funny that the moment America, which gives billions of dollars to Israel every year and fully supports it militarily etc... uses words like "action" "expect" "you need to" Israel feels like its relationship is at an all time low and try to get America to "calm down"

    It's obvious Netanyahu's "calm down" is aimed at America, and he really needs to see whose boss.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jonny

    GOOD, perhaps the U.S. will stop babysitting Israel and sending them billions of tax dollars as if they cannot support themselves already.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Zadaka

    I think it is time to get Israel attention by cutting all funding to the government of Israel.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jackson

    Of course because this President it too busy making friends with the enemy (N. Korea, Iran, Cuba, etc) to keep our current friends (Poland, Czech Republic, Israel, etc). It is amazing how much damage one elected official can do in just over one year. And now he's turning his sights on domestic policy. Once failure after another, 2012 cannot come soon enough.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Eyal Feldman

    Wanna see something concrete Israel did, its called 2005 Gaza Withdrawl. Insulting that Obama ignores pulling Jewish communities out of Gaza to get the terrorist Hamastan in return. Why doesn't anyone talk about Israeli pullout of Gaza??

    March 15, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Michael

    Whatever! Under the table they are laughing at the Arabs. This is all PR, the Arabs know that, the whole world knows that! please don't insult our intelligence! No one believes you anymore. How about you cut the aid to Israel for a start, second push the UN to bring forward the 180+ violations against Israel from massacres of innocent Palestinian women and children to invading neighboring countries and stealing their natural resources etc... Then maybe we will believe you. Otherwise you are part of the crime!

    March 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kevin

    It should be at an all time low that was very desrespectful to the Vice President.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
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