US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has decided to postpone his visit to the region, the US embassy informed the President's Office on Tuesday.
The meeting between President Shimon Peres and Mitchell will therefore be postponed. No official announcement has yet been made by the Prime Minister's Office or by the embassy.
US Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday will meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the recent crisis between the White House and Israel over construction in east Jerusalem.
According to The New York Times, President Obama was deeply upset by Israel's plan to build 1,600 new housing units, which was announced during Biden's visit to Israel. Obama, who was involved in planning and strategizing Biden's visit, is said to be the one who orchestrated the harsh American response, including threatening the peace process and Israel-US relations.
The paper also claims that US Special Envoy George Mitchell's visit to the region was postponed following the new developments.
Mitchell was slated to meet Tuesday evening with President Shimon Peres. According to reports, his meeting with the president was intentionally scheduled prior to the meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, so that Mitchell and Peres, who are both viewed as the "responsible adults", will be able to create a favorable atmosphere for renewed negotiations.
Back in Washington, Biden will host Clinton for their weekly breakfast. The main course will most likely be the Israeli issue, which is preoccupying the American high echelons these days.
The Americans are waiting for Israel's response to Clinton's demands, which were not officially publicized but are said to include a de-facto construction freeze in east Jerusalem and gestures toward the Palestinians, said a senior source in Washington. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said he plans on continuing construction in Jerusalem, just like in the past 42 years.
The Washington Post also quoted a senior source who said that if Netanyahu is not ready for such concessions, it raises questions as to his commitment to the negotiations and to Israel-US' relations.
However, American sources told Times magazine that core security issues between the two countries were not at risk, and that the current crisis is more like a lovers quarrel than a couple on the verge of divorce.
Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, who is affiliated to the Senate's Democratic majority, also commented on the "unnecessary dispute" and called both sides to lower their profile and solve issues "in the family."
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, harshly criticized the Obama administration and said, "To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, vice president and the secretary of state have made against Israel is an understatement."
"In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends," said Cantor and added that the administration's public spat with the Jewish State "jeopardizes America's national security."
Roni Sofer and Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to this report