- Dec 16, 2009
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Israel envoy: U.S. ties at their lowest ebb in 35 years
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has told the country's diplomats there that U.S.-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35 years, despite attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office to project a sense of "business as usual."
On Sunday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee condemned recent statements by the U.S. government regarding its ties with Israel, amid tensions over Israel's recent announcement of its plan to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem.
"The Obama Administration's recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern," said AIPAC in a statement issued on Sunday.
"AIPAC calls on the administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State," the statement said.
"The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests," the AIPAC statement said.
Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu continued to consult with the forum of seven senior cabinet ministers over a list of demands that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made in a telephone conversation Friday.
Clinton harshly criticized the announcement last week of plans to expand the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in East Jerusalem while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel.
Haaretz has learned that Clinton's list includes at least four steps the United States expects Netanyahu to carry out to restore confidence in bilateral relations and permit the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.
1. Investigate the process that led to the announcement of the Ramat Shlomo construction plans in the middle of Biden's visit. The Americans seek an official response from Israel on whether this was a bureaucratic mistake or a deliberate act carried out for political reasons. Already on Saturday night, Netanyahu announced the convening of a committee to look into the issue.
2. Reverse the decision by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee to approve construction of 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo.
3. Make a substantial gesture toward the Palestinians enabling the renewal of peace talks. The Americans suggested that hundreds of Palestinian prisoners be released, that the Israel Defense Forces withdraw from additional areas of the West Bank and transfer them to Palestinian control, that the siege of the Gaza Strip be eased and further roadblocks in the West Bank be removed.
4. Issue an official declaration that the talks with the Palestinians, even indirect talks, will deal with all the conflict's core issues - borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security arrangements, water and settlements.
In Oren's Saturday conference call with the Israeli consuls general, he said that the current crisis was the most serious with the Americans since a confrontation between Henry Kissinger and Yitzhak Rabin in 1975 over an American demand for a partial withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.
Israel envoy: U.S. ties at their lowest ebb in 35 years - Haaretz - Israel News