- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2010

‘FLAGRANTLY MISQUOTED’

Israel’s ambassador in Washington is hotly denying that he ever said his country is facing the “most severe” crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations in 35 years — a widely reported comment that seemed to characterize the latest diplomatic flare-up between the United States and the Jewish nation.

“I was flagrantly misquoted about remarks I made in a confidential briefing this past Saturday,” Ambassador Michael Oren said in a statement released by the Israeli Embassy this week.

Yediot Ahronot, a leading Israeli newspaper, reported Monday on a conference call Mr. Oren held with Israeli consular officers in the United States and noted that one of its sources quoted the ambassador as saying: “‘Israel’s relations with the U.S. are facing the most sever crisis since 1975.’”

U.S.-Israeli relations sank to a low point 35 years ago, when Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state, demanded that Israel partially withdraw its troops from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Another Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, based its story on reports from four consuls general who participated in the conference call. The newspaper’s sources said Mr. Oren sounded “tense and pessimistic.”

In his statement released Tuesday, Mr. Oren said, “Recent events do not — I repeat — do not represent the lowest point in the relations between Israel and the United States. Though we differ on certain issues, our discussions are being conducted in an atmosphere of cooperation, as befitting long-standing relations between allies. I am confident that we will overcome these differences shortly.”

Mr. Oren was referring to a diplomatic dispute that erupted last week when Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. traveled to Israel to plan for the reopening of talks between Israelis and Palestinians. His visit was thrown into disarray when the Israeli government announced controversial plans for the construction of 1,600 new homes for Jews in East Jerusalem.

By the end of the week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had denounced the timing of the announcement as “insulting” to Mr. Biden and had telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to warn him that the construction plans sent a “deeply negative signal” for U.S.-Israeli relations. In Israel, Mr. Netanyahu’s brother-in-law, Hagai Ben-Artzi, called President Obama anti-Semitic in a radio interview.

This week, enraged Palestinians rioted in East Jerusalem as U.S. and Israeli leaders tried to defuse diplomatic tensions. On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton reiterated America’s “absolute commitment to Israel’s security,” and Mr. Netanyahu on Wednesday praised Mr. Obama’s support for Israel.

DEADLY BORDER

Six Democratic members of the House Border Caucus held an urgent meeting this week with Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan to discuss the shootings of two American citizens and a Mexican man married to a U.S. Consulate employee as drug-related violence along the Mexican border continues to grow.

“We expressed our deep concern to Ambassador Sarukhan regarding violence on the border and offered our support and help during these tough times their country is enduring,” said Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz of Texas, co-chairman of the caucus.

He also proposed that the caucus hold regular meetings with the ambassador to discuss the drug violence.

Reps. Harry Teague of New Mexico and Henry Cuellar, Ruben Hinojosa, Silvestre Reyes and Ciro D. Rodriguez — all from Texas — also attended the meeting. Mr. Reyes is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail [email protected]

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