In his first public remarks on the strain in U.S.-Israel ties, President Obama said there was no crisis in relations between the two countries.
In an interview with Fox News aired Wednesday night, the U.S. leader said Israel’s announcement last week during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit of new construction in eastern Jerusalem has not led to a crisis in ties between Israel and the United States.
“We and the Israeli people have a special bond that’s not going to go away,” Obama said. “But friends are going to disagree sometimes.”
He added, “There is a disagreement in terms of how we can move this peace process forward.”
Meanwhile, in an Op-Ed published Thursday in The New York Times, Israel’s U.S. ambassador said that Israel and the United States have a “deep and multi-layered friendship, but even the closest allies can sometimes disagree.”
Michael Oren said in the article that though the “discord” between Israel and the Obama administration over the housing announcement during Biden’s visit “was unfortunate, it was not a historic low point in United States-Israel relations.” Preliminary approval was granted for a 1,600-apartment construction project in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.
Oren also wrote that he had never said that relations between the two countries were at their lowest since 1975, despite widely circulated media reports to the contrary.
Two days after the incident, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton berated Netanyahu in a 43-minute phone call and reportedly demanded that he cancel the apartment project’s approval, make a dramatic gesture to the Palestinians such as releasing Palestinian prisoners and agree publicly to discuss all core issues, including the status of Jerusalem, in upcoming peace talks.
Netanyahu and his top seven ministers, called the Forum of Seven, met until late Wednesday night to discuss Israel’s response to the Obama administration’s demands.
The United States reportedly is waiting for a reply, which it had expected as early as Wednesday, before agreeing to allow any top government officials to meet with Netanyahu during his visit to Washington next week to address the annual policy meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Clinton also is scheduled to address the AIPAC parley.