April 4th, 2010
02:01 PM ET
10 years ago

Israeli Amb.: Palestinians need to come to negotiating table

Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. described the relationship between the two countries as 'great.'

Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. described the relationship between the two countries as 'great.'

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.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. jules sand-perkins

    The Israeli ambassador said the Palestinians "need to" do WHAT?
    The Palestinians have suffered under Zionists since the 1940s.
    The only thing Palestinians "need to do" is to STOP SUFFERING.

    April 4, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  2. Ancient Texan

    This White House was reluctant to comment on the election debacle in Iran for fear of interferring in the actions of another nation. How,ever to demand that Israel comply with his ultimatum to stop building in their own capitol city is defying logic. This arrogance by the president coupled with his deliberate snub of the Israeli Prime Minister is unbelievable.

    April 4, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. liz the First

    I don't see how we can portray ourselves as honest brokers for peace in the Middle East if the whole world knows we are on the side of Israel, right or wrong. maybe if the Israelis didn't think we had their backs no matter what they did, maybe they would be more inclined to act in a way that doesn't constantly antagonize and provoke their neighbors. they're like the bully with the big brother standing behind him to kick any kid's butt who dares stand up to him. we need to be neutral and call fouls no matter which side makes them.

    April 4, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  4. vegage

    How can the Palestinians com the negotiating table is Israel is just torpedoing the process? I was an Israel's unconditional supporter but what they are doing just tells me they are not serious in having peace. I have come to the conclusion that Israel needs to retrieve to the 1967 borders and allow the Palestinians to have the own state. I am believer that the Arab-Israel conflict is the fuel for all the islamist extremism and if that is resolved and there is peace between Israelis an Palestinians we will see a sea of peace in the world.

    April 4, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  5. Abe

    “The state of U.S.- Israeli relations is...Great.” OK. But what about the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations? And, US-Palestinian relations?

    April 4, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  6. Gordon Shumway

    Sure the arabs can build any where in the city they want; Israel just won't let them bring any building supplies into the Israel, let alone Jerusalem..

    April 4, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. Dean

    So much for Obama going to increase our stature in the world. He can't even keep the friends we had when he took office. We have no business telling other countries who can build what where.

    April 4, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  8. methuselah

    Why? So you can run them over with your U.S. made Caterpillar dozers? Mr. Oren is an embarrassment to the U.S. and to Israel. The U.S. needs to get over its enabling behavior for Israel.

    April 4, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. JohnRJ08

    I'm one of those people who thinks the United States should always support Israel, no matter what. However, the current israeli government seems to quite full of itself lately and a little too sure of its good relationship with the US.

    There is no question that Israel has been a state under siege since its establishment 62 years ago, and that it has been living in the constant shadow of terrorism and unprovoked attacks. There is also no question that many Muslim nations in that region do not want peace with Israel and have intentionally aggravated the Palestinian problem in order to prevent any kind of meaningful dialogue.

    That said, Israel has become too arrogant and too comfortable with the status quo. As one of the greatest military powers in the Mideast, it needs to step up to the plate and open doors to peace rather than continuing to slam them shut by building more settlements. Israel is losing the moral high ground it once had in this feud with the Palestinians and a lot of Americans are becoming more and more aware of this.

    April 4, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. Steve

    It's Israel versus the rest of the world. If anyone disagrees with their bullying ways they are considered anti Semitic. Why do so many people considering the middle east ignore the fact that the state of Israel itself was imposed on the region by outsiders? If you look at every war that has occurred on this planet it boils down to arbitrary boundaries drawn by outsiders or outsiders seeking to impose their views on the indigenous populations of the region.

    April 4, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  11. AJ

    Who deas Axelrod think he's kidding? This very pro Palestinian administration certainly did mean it as a snub and if you ask most Israelis they would tell you that relations between Israel are not great. I just hope the Jewish community in the US remembers this in 2012.

    April 4, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  12. Doyle Wiley, MI

    Oren is a, not at all funny, joke. Israeli obviously has no intentions of achieving peace with the Palestinians.

    April 4, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  13. james walter

    for 20 yrs you've been negotiating &...... NOTHING.
    If your govs... realy want Peace, you have to give and not only take & take & take. ...

    April 4, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  14. tarbush

    The appropriate one-word answer should be "realistic." And that should mean that Israel should be treated like any other ally: fairly and helpfully, when possible. But the interests of the United States should be paramount, and in recent decades that has often not been the case.

    April 4, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  15. Nabeel

    Oren is right. But the proof is in the numbers.

    How many houses have been built for non-jews in Jerusalem since 1967?

    How many building permits have been issued to non-Jews in Israel since 1948?

    How many houses have been built without permits by Jewish people in Israel and the West Bank without permits and been demolished?

    How many house have been built by Non-Jews in Israel and the West Bank without permits and demolished?

    How many Jews have been removed from their homes in the West Bank since 1967 and given to Arabs

    How many Arabs have been removed from their homes and given to Jews ince 1948 and 1967.

    Answer these questions and you will find the answer as to why the Arabs and Palestinians in particular want a change in the way Israel conducts itself in the world community.

    The only difference between what happened to the Jews in WW2 and what happened to the Palestinians is that the Jewish population in Israel consistentenly gets reparations for being run from thier homes.

    Double standards like this should not exist. THere will be no peace until there is justice and human rights for the Palestinians.

    April 4, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. Johnny DC

    This administration has both openly and secretly undermined freedom and capitalism, both abroad and domestically. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either a blind, misinformed follower of Obama or a complete moron.

    This is just another example of it. Obama singles out the one true free nation in the entire region and speaks out against them, in favor of the terrorist nations surrounding them.

    April 4, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  17. Abdal-Latif

    Oren blames Palestinians for not participating in negotiations...and even as he says that, his own government is building on land that has been unambiguously Arab for about 19 centuries, even evicting many Arab residents by force. What is being built there is apartheid housing–housing that will be RESTRICTED TO JEWS ONLY–Arabs, whether Muslim (like me) or Christian (like my grandmother) need not apply. His statement that "anyone, including Arabs, can build in E. Jerusalem" is an outright lie. Yes, technically true, but it is almost impossible for Arabs to get building permits anywhere–especially within Israel proper–and most of all in Jerusalem! Even if they could get permits, they do not have nearly the financial resources that the Jews have. Oren's statements are lies upon lies.

    April 4, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. Jack

    Lets brake homes down and re-build. Very Ethical!!!!!!!!

    April 4, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Why am I not surprised. BHO is changing the game in the wrong direction. You would think the Hillary would give BHO better advice.

    April 4, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. Richard Miller

    Why in the hell do we have to get along with Israel? As far as I am concerned, the Israeli tail wags the American dog. We give them billions in foreign aid, but we have to close schools all over America because we can't pay the teachers; our infrastructure is a shambles, but we still send our aid payments to Israel. We are a pariah nation to the Arab states because of our support, moral, financial, and military, to the Israelis, no matter what they do to the Palestinians-no matter how many they kill, no matter how much of their land the Israelis steal, no matter if the Israeli Supreme Court invents a hocus-pocus reason for do so, no matter if the Israeli settlers are told not to (wink-wink, nod-nod) place their trailers on Arab lands, we suck it all up, and do, NOTHING. We are involved with Afghanistan because of our support for they way they treat their captive Arabs.

    Thank You

    Richard Miller

    April 4, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  21. JoJo

    For what. Everytime they have a talk,Israel come with some new settlements, build new housing and expect the Palestinians to come to the table and talk about peace. Too much hypocrisy from the Israeli to have someone trust them to sit with them, and talk to them about any peace in the area.

    April 4, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. Bob (Illinois)

    Ambassador Oren appears to be overlooking the FACT that Jerusalem resides in territory occupied during the 1967 war.

    April 4, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. S Callahan

    There are millions, maybe billions (included the heavenly rehealm) of Christ believers that stand with you Israel !!!
    The day is coming when we will all say...."Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!". Happy Passover....Happy Easter...!

    April 4, 2010 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  24. Edward Kluk

    Mr. ambassador appears to be very arrogant or rest of the word is wrong. But I do not think that rest of the word is wrong.

    April 4, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  25. Vet.Vet

    Israeli Amb. almost have the taking points of the Republican party, he did a slight of words when he was ask to respond to the statement by General Catreas. Isreal will continue to treat the Palestinians people like dirt in the name of religion and GODs gift of all land to them reguardless of previous or current ownership, they could care less if they place our solders in danger, its about them, because they know they have big moneyed lobbist AIRPAC and the Republican party to trump any complaints about their apartied policies toward the Palestinians. Know what do Isreal offer and or benefit they provide the US, absoultely nothing. What benefit do America offer Isreal? Their entire lively hood whitout us, they would cease to exist. Know tell me whats wrong with this picture.

    April 4, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
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