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U.S.-Israel flap after LA meeting

by  Tom Tugend

January 7, 2010 | 1:47 pm

The U.S. and Israeli governments scrambled this week to defuse a report potentially damaging to already nervous relations between the two countries.

At the center of the flurry of statements was Jacob Dayan, Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, and President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

The two men met about two weeks ago in Los Angeles at a dinner honoring local Democratic Congressman Howard Berman.

According to a report in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Emanuel told Dayan that Washington was fed up with both sides in the Middle East peace process and that the White House would turn to other priorities if no progress were made.

Emanuel allegedly added that Israel adopted valid ideas, such as the freeze of West Bank settlement construction, months too late, while the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

The usually accessible Dayan did not respond to requests for comments, but Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, spoke up on Dayan’s behalf.

“Consul General Dayan, one of Israel’s most experienced and respected diplomats, expresses his deepest regrets for the distortions of Mr. Emanuel’s views” in a harmful newspaper article, the embassy statement noted.

“In fact, during his visit to Los Angeles, Mr. Emanuel reiterated his unflagging commitment to Israel’s security and his devotion to the search for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

A White House aide labeled the initial report as “distorted” and was quoted by Ha’aretz as adding that while Emanuel “expressed frustration with the lack of progress with the peace process, he certainly didn’t threaten to walk away from it. The allegations are completely ridiculous.”

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