As though she were scolding a child, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a 45-minute phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to chew him out over the decision to build 1,600 more homes for Jews in a part of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians.
Approval for the housing project in the northeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo came while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the Israeli capital last week, a fact that American officials saw as a major insult.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that Clinton told Netanyahu she "could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States' strong commitment to Israel's security 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."
Clinton said the incident had for the Obama Administration raised questions about Israel's commitment to its bilateral relations with the US.
The State Department also summoned Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to officially reprimand him over the new building project.
Palestinian leaders have jumped at the opportunity provided by the US government by declaring they will not take part in scheduled indirect peace talks until the Jerusalem building decision is rescinded, which Israelis know would effectively kill their ancient claims to the city.
At Sunday's cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu reiterated that he regrets the timing of the building announcement, but still refused to apologize for the decision to approve more Jewish homes on the eastern side of the city. Netanyahu also urged Israelis to not get so worked up by headlines that suggested US-Israel relations were going sour.
While it is true that Israel's relationship with the US public remains strong, increasing hostility from the White House is starting to concern many Israelis and American supporters of the Jewish state.
Anti-Defamation League Director Abe Foxman issued a statement deploring the severe language used by Clinton and her colleagues over what is ultimately a minor issue.
"We are shocked and stunned at the administration’s tone and public dressing-down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem," said Foxman. "One can only wonder how far the US is prepared to go in distancing itself from Israel in order to placate the Palestinians in the hope they see it is in their interest to return to the negotiating table."
Meanwhile, official Palestinian Authority TV on Thursday aired a special segment dedicated to the memory of Dalal Mughrabi, the terrorist responsible for the most deadly terrorist attack in Israel's modern history.
The broadcast described the anniversary of the attack, March 11, as a "day of pride and glory for the Palestinians."
While the Palestinians view Israeli building on lands they claim as the biggest obstacle to peace, Israel views ongoing Palestinian incitement in the exact same light. However, the American and world response to the Palestinian violations is very different (read: non-existent) than the response to perceived Israeli provocations.