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U.S.-Israel Relations Hit Nadir

Fallout from last week’s East J’lem announcement continues

Marc Tracy
March 15, 2010

You thought it was over? You thought everyone had forgotten the Israeli Interior Ministry’s announcement last Tuesday, right after Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the country, that it will build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem? Not a chance. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again apologized for the timing; however, he also stood by continued Israeli building in East Jerusalem. And a senior U.S. official confirmed that this has been “the first time the U.S. has really pushed back hard.”

The whole matter is important enough—proximity talks! peace in the Middle East! the U.S.-Israeli relationship! Hillary Clinton reprimanding Netanyahu for 45 frickin’ minutes!—that the whole thing deserves its own Monday morning mega-round-up. So:

• AIPAC called on the Obama administration to “defuse” tensions with Israel: “The administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines.” [Press Release/Ben Smith]

• Not one of Netanyahu’s 30 ministers—including members of the center-left Labor Party—supported a total settlement freeze, including in East Jerusalem. [JPost]

• Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told other Israeli diplomats that the U.S.-Israeli relationship has reached its lowest level in 35 years. [Haaretz]

• On Meet the Press, top Obama political adviser David Axelrod described the announcement as an “affront” and an “insult.” [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was “not intentional, but was nonetheless unnecessary and damaging.” [Ynet]

• The U.S. State Department formally summoned and reprimanded Oren. [Ynet]

• U.S. envoy George Mitchell is headed to the region this week, and Netanyahu is headed to Washington, D.C., at the beginning of next for the AIPAC summit. President Barack Obama actually will be around while Bibi is there. [Laura Rozen]

• Influential columnist Thomas L. Friedman laments that Biden didn’t leave Israel immediately after the announcement, though not before relaying the following message to Israel:

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious. We need to focus on building our country. [NYT]

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.