Following Israel’s announcement of the construction of more settlements in East Jerusalem and the subsequent statements issued by various officials in the US administration, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, has confirmed that relations between the two countries have reached levels of tension not seen in 35 years.
According to a report on Monday in the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, statements made by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the issue were received with mixed feelings within the US administration. While some considered them as an attempt to down play the negative effects of the announcement by Israel’s Interior Minister, others considered them wholly inadequate and have urged the Israeli government not only to take a clear and final position regarding settlements, but also to cancel the resolution.
Ha’aretz further reports that the US administration considers the current Israeli stance an obstacle to negotiations even before they have been launched. Statements from the US State Department, the Vice President, the White House spokesman and a top aide to the president all condemn the announcement of continued settlement construction and demand the cancellation of the resolution in order to support the negotiation process.
Ha’aretz also states that the Israeli ambassador to the US had contacted Israeli consuls across the country in order to make clear the increasing levels of tension in relations between the two countries. Consuls were also filled in on the latest meetings with the American administration in which they were asked to explain Israel’s position.
It is noteworthy that during the Israeli government’s weekly meeting last Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that relations with the US administration had recently deteriorated. He conceded that there needed to be more effort put into them and to be worked on quietly and away from the media. He nevertheless spoke of the depth of Israeli – US relations, and accused the media of exaggerating the matter.
In a similar vein, on Monday the online publication ‘Primary Issues’ claimed that Prime Minister Netanyahu had stepped up contact with Jewish organizations in the US, in an effort to gather support against US president Barak Obama. It is hoped that this US based initiative will serve to reduce pressure from both the US government and President on Israel.