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.
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.”
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met for more than three hours Tuesday evening amid a dispute over Israel's decision to build new Jewish housing on disputed land in East Jerusalem.
The Obama administration has pushed to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and has called on Israel to stop building settlements on territory it captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Netanyahu's meeting at the White House came the day after he defended his government's plans to build new housing units in East Jerusalem, a move that has strained ties with Israel's largest ally.
The Israeli leader arrived after a show of solidarity with leaders of Congress from both parties, during which he thanked the U.S. lawmakers for their "constant support" and "unflagging" friendship.
"Even though the challenges are immense, our will and our partnership is also immense," Netanyahu said at an appearance with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Moscow, Russia (CNN) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Russia on Thursday to jump-start talks on two diplomatic fronts: a new nuclear treaty between the countries and the stalled Mideast peace process.
Clinton will spend Thursday in talks with senior Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Both sides have expressed optimism that they can reach a long-delayed agreement to reduce their nuclear warheads to about 1,500 each before an international summit on nuclear non-proliferation in Washington next month.
The two sides have been trying to negotiate a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired in December.
Jerusalem (CNN) - 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 by a local newspaper.
Israel's ambassador to the United States Michael Oren made the remarks in a conference call to the country's consuls-general Saturday night, the Haaretz newspaper said.
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.
Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech Thursday at Tel Aviv University in Israel. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)
Jerusalem (CNN) - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says it is difficult to have any negotiations with Israel unless it revokes plans to build new homes on disputed land in Jerusalem, Abbas' top negotiator said Thursday.
Abbas made the comment while speaking to Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, negotiator Saeb Erakat said.
Abbas told Moussa he has asked the United States to demand that Israel stop the construction.
Israel announced Tuesday it would build 1,600 new apartments on land that both Israel and the Palestinians claim. The Palestinians contend the area is in Arab East Jerusalem; Israel's Interior Ministry says it is not.
The dispute came during a visit to Israel and the West Bank by Vice President Joe Biden. He criticized Israel's decision to build the apartments, saying Wednesday that it undermines the trust both sides need for negotiations.
Ramallah, West Bank (CNN) - The United States will hold both Israel and the Palestinians responsible for any steps that make peace between them more difficult, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday.
Biden, in the region meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders, repeated strong criticism he made of an Israeli move a day earlier.
He said Tuesday he "condemned" Israel's decision to build 1,600 new apartments on land which both Israel and the Palestinians claim.
The Palestinians contend the area is in East Jerusalem; Israel's Interior Ministry says it is not.
"The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel," Biden said Tuesday.
Washington (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden will travel to the Middle East early next month, the vice president's office announced Monday.
During the week of March 8, Biden is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Jordan's King Abdullah, according to a release from his office.
He will "discuss the full range of bilateral and regional issues," the release stated.
Washington (CNN) – The Obama administration is making a renewed push for Mideast peace, stepping up pressure on Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks focusing on borders of a future Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem.
Doing so, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday, would address Palestinian concerns about Israeli settlement construction.
Previously, the Obama administration made freezing Israeli settlements in Palestinian-controlled areas its priority, an approach that only hardened both sides' resolve and stalled talks for months.
But Clinton suggested Friday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas drop his demand for a total settlement freeze before talks could resume.
"Resolving borders resolves settlements. Resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements," she told reporters after talks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. "We need to lift our sights and instead of ... looking down at the trees, we need to look at the forest."
Echoing Clinton's comments, Judeh said, "if you resolve the question of borders, then you automatically resolve not only settlements in Jerusalem, but you identify the nature on the ground of the two-state solution and how it looks like. And then all other things fit in place."
Washington (CNN) - The White House chief of staff Tuesday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel and said the dispute over settlements should not keep the Israelis and Palestinians from holding peace talks.
"No one should allow the issue of settlements to distract from the goal of a lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world," Rahm Emanuel told participants at a conference of the Jewish Federations of North America.
He urged Israelis and Palestinians to hold peace negotiations soon to address key "final status" issues of security, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. But he added that that "unilateral actions should be avoided and cannot dictate the outcome," a pointed reference to continued settlement activity by Israel.
Emanuel filled in for President Barack Obama, who canceled his scheduled appearance before the group to attend the Fort Hood memorial service. He reiterated statements made by Obama stressing the "unbreakable" bond between the United States and Israel.