WASHINGTON, March 13, (AFP) - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has rebuked Israel for plans to build new settler homes, saying it sent a "deeply negative signal" about Israel's ties to its top ally.
In unusually harsh words, Clinton told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington strongly objected to the announcement made during a landmark trip to Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden.
| Hillary Clinton
"The United States considered the announcement a deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship," the top US diplomat told Netanyahu in an early Friday morning telephone call.
Clinton heaped further scorn on the Jewish state's announcement after speaking with Netanyahu."The announcement of the settlements, the very day that the vice president was there, was insulting," she told CNN in an interview.
"I mean, it was really just an unfortunate and difficult moment for everyone."
It was an unusually strong rebuke from the United States for its main regional ally, and almost unprecedented in decades of strong ties.
In June 1990, secretary of state James Baker, frustrated by the intransigence of Israel's then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, told the Israelis: "When you're serious about peace, call us."
But while today's frustration also stems from the stalemated Middle East peace process, the political landscape is completely different, analysts said.
"Clinton and Biden are very close friends to Israel. Bush and Baker weren't so close," the analyst said, asking to remain anonymous, referring to the former president George H.W. Bush.
A member of Clinton's close entourage said she was clearly "frustrated" by the announcement which came just as the US was hoping to coax the two sides back to the negotiating table.
The Israeli interior ministry announced Tuesday during Biden's visit that 1,600 new settler homes would be built in predominantly Arab east Jerusalem triggering swift fury among Arab and Palestinian leaders.
Clinton told Netanyahu that "she could not understand how this happened particularly in light of the US strong interest in Israel's security," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.
"And she made clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words, but through specific actions, that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process."
Netanyahu, who is due to address the powerful pro-Israeli American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington from March 21-23, has apologized for the timing of the announcement.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state.
Israel, which seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community, considers the city its eternal and indivisible capital.
Middle East Quartet condemns Israeli settlement
UNITED NATIONS, March 13, (AFP) - The Middle East diplomatic Quartet on Friday issued a rare condemnation of Israel for its plans to build new settler homes, warning that unilateral actions would not be recognized by the world community.
The group -- the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations -- "condemns Israel's decision to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem."
"The Quartet reaffirms that unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community," it added in a statement.