Israel’s envoy to Washington said ties between the two allies have hit "the most severe crisis since 1975" over Tel Aviv settlement plan that embarrassed the US administration at a time that it was promoting indirect peace talks with the Palestinians.
"Israel’s relations with the US are facing the most severe crisis since 1975," Israel’s Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren said on Monday.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on Oren’s remarks.
The year 1975 witnessed a major crisis between the key allies over the US calls for a partial withdrawal from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, then under Israeli occupation.
Israel’s settlement plan to build 1,600 new housing units in east Jerusalem (al-Quds), which was announced during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden aimed at promoting indirect peace talks with the Palestinians, ignited a new crisis between the two sides.
US administration officials including Biden, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and senior presidential advisor David Axelrod have slammed both the new construction and the timing of the announcement as insulting and destructive to peace efforts.
In American media the move was deemed as a "slap in the face" of US President Barack Obama’s administration.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced regret on Sunday for what he described as bureaucratic happenstance, saying "We know how to deal with these situations — with equanimity, responsibly and seriously."
Israeli media reported that Clinton, in a telephone call to Netanyahu on Friday, demanded he reverse the decision to construct the settler homes at Ramat Shlomo in northern Jerusalem (al-Quds). Israel, however, declined to comment.
In Washington, the influential pro-Israel lobbying group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, called on the White House to take immediate steps to defuse tension with Israel.
A US envoy is expected back in the region later in the week to try to get peace talks, suspended since December 2008, under way.
Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas, however, refused direct or indirect negotiations without a complete settlement freeze.