Washington (CNN) – Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. said Sunday that relations were good between the two longtime allies despite the appearance of a strain in recent weeks. And Ambassador Michael Oren repeatedly emphasized the need for the Palestinians to participate in peace talks in order to broker an accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Watch: Israel wants peace, Oren says
A mini dust-up began between Israel and the U.S. last month when Israel announced plans to build housing on disputed land in East Jerusalem. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the announcement “insulting” in part because it was made while Vice President Biden was visiting Israel and the West Bank. Though both sides have maintained throughout that the bond between the two nations remains strong, relations once again appeared strained when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a recent visit to the White House where he was not greeted with the same fanfare that the Obama administration has rolled out for other world leaders.
Asked about Netanyahu’s low-key visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, White House senior adviser David Axelrod said last week on CNN’s State of the Union that “no snub was intended.” Axelrod characterized President Obama’s behind-closed-doors meeting with Netanyahu as “a working meeting.” While Axelrod echoed the familiar refrain that Israel remains a close ally of the United States, he also said that “sometimes, part of friendship is expressing yourself bluntly.”
Appearing Sunday on State of the Union, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., sought to explain Israel’s approach to Jerusalem.
“Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967,” Oren told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, “This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu... that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv. And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they – an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C.
“That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.”
Oren added, “But we understand – we understand that Jerusalem is sensitive.”
Although Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital, that is not recognized internationally, and Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the site of their future capital.
The Israeli diplomat also suggested that its policy on Jerusalem should not be a sticking point in renewed efforts by the U.S. to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
“There has been 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians, including two cases where Israeli prime ministers put complete peace plans on the table, including Jerusalem,” Oren said. “And throughout that entire period of peace-making, Israel's policy on Jerusalem remained unchanged.
“We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so.”
Notwithstanding the recent strains in the Israeli-U.S. relationship, the diplomat was, well, diplomatic in his characterization of the ties between the two allies.
“I literally need a one-word answer,” Crowley told Oren. “The state of U.S.- Israeli relations is...”
“Great,” he replied.
If the United States was to adhere to the policy we are encouraging Israel to follow, we would be making plans to give Oklahoma back to the Indians, Arizona, California and New Mexico back to the Spanish.
Where was al this outrage and indignation, expressed by a partisan minority, from 1948 until June 1967 when Jordan ruled Jerusalem with nothing but animosity and hatred towards their neighbors across the green line?
Isreal needs to abide by the same standards as the rest of the world. Give up the Palestinian land, acknowledge thier nukes, give up thier nukes (if you want to prevent others from pursuing them), Stop treating Palestinians like they were treated by the Nazis, Stopthe land grab.
Untile they do, we should cut off the money. We can't afford it anyway.
Israeli and palestinians going back to the negotiations table is a waste of time.Them two have been fighting from in the womb.
and it said that there shall never be peace in israel.
but then again America been fighting for healthcare for a hundred years and our present President were able to just get it through.
So maybe now and only maybe something good may come out of Israel while this President is in the White House.
The Israeli ambassador has said what he thinks Palestinians need to do.
What many Americans need to do is to make some quiet-time to empathize with the Palestinians.
Good story/package. The Ambassador was quite succinct in explaining the Israeli position. Good show today–you're kicking David Gregory's butt!
And Israel needs to quit acting like an arrogant, murderous, thieving, bully, with the usual underlying characteristic of bullies, cowardice–the only way Israel can get away its contemptibly provocative behaviour is by hiding behind the US.
The problem with that statement is what would happen if the Palestinians suddenly announced that they were building 1600 new homes in E. Jerusalem and were dismantling Jewish homes or office buildings to do so. I doubt that such an announcement would be greeted very kindly by the Israelis.
Israel is THE only obstacle to peace. Israel must return East Jerusalem and the West Bank to the Palestinians and end their genocidal blockade on the Palestinian terroritories.
It is about time we stop treating Israel as the fifty-first state.
It is about time Israel be held accountable for ITS actions as well.
It is about time the world acknowledge that this whole problem was created by the west when Israel was "created".
It is about time to stop basing foregin policy based on popular mythology.
The comments from the ambassador are symptomatic of the arrogance of the government in Israel, that nothing matters except the self declared law. UN resolutions are no longer mentioned.
The religious foundation of the state of Israel can be compared with the theolgy of Muslim States.
The middle east is as far away from secular attitudes in the western world as the univers is wide. I can't see a bridge to span this gap.
Look where western ideology was supposed to transplant religious fundamentalism. The middle east is a different world and only the oil and the money attached to it makes it worthwhile to keep it in focus and "under control".
Obama has abandoned Israel in his pursuit of his policy of appeasement. Obama is now irrelevant to western democracies.
What? Is anyone surprised? Why? Obama said he was going to fundamentally change the country if he got elected and you all voted him in. I assume you knew what those changes were going to be (I hope you did or else you shouldn't have voted!). We are befriending our enemies and be-enemying our friends. Unfortunately our enemies aren't reciprocating. But... it is change. And I guess you all believe in it. Well done!