Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday delivered a stinging rebuke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his government's announcement this week of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem.
In an interview with CNN Clinton said the move was "insulting" to the US. "We have to make clear to our Israeli friends and partner that the two-state solution which we support, which the prime minister himself said he supports, requires confidence-building measures on both sides," she said.
"The announcement of the settlements the very day that the vice president was there was insulting." However Clinton stressed that US-Israeli relations were not at risk over the mishap.
Earlier Friday Clinton spoke to Netanyahu by phone to express US frustration with Tuesday's announcement that cast a pall over a visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden. A State Department spokesman said the Israeli move has endangered indirect peace talks with the Palestinians that the Obama administration had announced just a day earlier.
Clinton told Netanyahu that Israel's plan to build 1,600 new homes in east Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood was "a deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship and counter to the spirit of the vice president's trip," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a news briefing.
The harsh criticism of America's closest Mideast ally and questions about its commitment to the US-Israeli relationship followed equally blunt condemnation of the housing announcement from the White House and Biden himself.
It also comes ahead of a trip to the region by US Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell and a meeting in Moscow next week of senior officials from the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers.
The Israeli announcement took the US by surprise and enraged Palestinians and Arab states, jeopardizing indirect peace talks Mitchell is to mediate
"The secretary said 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," he said.
Crowley stressed that the United States strongly objected to both the content and timing of the announcement and said Clinton had "reinforced that this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in America's interests."
The Mideast Quartet, which consists of the US, Russia, the European Union, and the UN also condemned Israel's decision to permit new construction in east Jerusalem and called on all parties concerned to support the early resumption of dialogue.
The Quartet called on Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from taking any one-sided measures in an attempt to determine the results of the negotiations in advance. It said any such actions would not be recognized by the international community.
'Iran requires resolution with teeth'
During her interview with CNN Clinton also spoke about about the Iranian nuclear issue. "I think that the process that we’re engaged in right now at the United Nations is to narrow the differences and to arrive at a resolution that can be adopted by the Security Council that will have teeth, that will set forth consequences for Iran’s violations of regulations that they agreed to under the Nonproliferation Treaty, ignoring the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as resolutions by the United Nations," she said.
Clinton added that the Security Council members had been united until recently on the matter of sanctions.
"Now, some of the members, both the permanent and the non-permanent members, believe that they can, through their efforts, persuade Iran to take action that Iran so far has shown no inclination to take," she said.
"We respect their commitment to diplomacy and negotiation, but we think the time has come for the international community to express itself that unilateral actions on the diplomacy track or unilateral actions that could lead to an arms race in the Middle East, that could lead to conflict in the Middle East, are not a very good outcome."
Yitzhak Benhorin, Reuters, AFP and AP contributed to the report