WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel’s U.S. ambassador and the White House denied remarks that have fueled the current Israel-U.S. tensions.
The envoy, Michael Oren, was quoted this week by Haaretz as saying that relations were at a 35-year-low after Israel embarrassed Vice President Joe Biden during a visit to the region by announcing that it was building 1,600 housing units in eastern Jerusalem.
On Tuesday evening, Oren issued a statement denying that account of a conference call he had Saturday night with Israeli diplomats.
"I was flagrantly misquoted about remarks I made in a confidential briefing this past Saturday," Oren said in a statement. "Recent events do not — I repeat — do not represent the lowest point in the relations between Israel and the United States. Though we differ on certain issues, our discussions are being conducted in an atmosphere of cooperation as befitting long-standing relations between allies. I am confident that we will overcome these differences shortly."
Separately, numerous media quoted senior White House officials as denying an account in Yediot Achronot last week that Biden had told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel was endangering the lives of American troops in the region.
"He never said that, and there’s no basis to assert that he did," The Atlantic quoted one official as saying. "What he did say in a meeting with the prime minister and his senior advisers and his own team was that the U.S. is doing a number of things in our national security interest, and in Israel’s national security interest, and they include a strong effort to build a coalition against Iran’s nuclear program; deploying 200,000 troops in conflict areas in the region; standing against efforts to delegitimize Israel in various international bodies, sometimes virtually alone; acting decisively against terrorists in very significant ways; and building probably the strongest defense cooperation relationship with Israel that we’ve seen, including on missile defense."