Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s office denied a New York Times report Thursday that the hostage situation was straining relations between Israel and the United States.
Avi Pazner, the prime minister’s media spokesman, said that Shamir has had no recent communication from President Bush, and denied that Shamir received an uncharacteristically harsh cable from the White House on Aug. 1.
The Times said Israeli officials found the communique so “offensive” in tone and content that they declined to respond.
In Washington, meanwhile, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, Richard Boucher, responding to the Times’ story, said “There’s been no shift in our relations with Israel.”
He called the relationship “close,” “abiding” and “enduring.”
But Israel Radio’s Washington correspondent reported Thursday that despite efforts by officials on both sides to play down tensions, sharply discernible friction has developed between Israel and the United States since the kidnaping of Obeid.
According to the Times story, the administration demanded to know what goals Israel was pursuing and specifically why it abducted Sheik Abdul Karim Obeid of the extremist Hezbollah, or Party of God, from his home in southern Lebanon on July 28.
The cable was sent immediately after the White House viewed a videotape that purported to show the hanging of Lt. Col. William Higgins, an American hostage held by Hezbollah.
Eight days later, Shamir telephoned Bush and the two discussed many of the points raised in the cable. But the Times said Bush complained to aides afterwards that he still had not gotten the answers he sought from Shamir.
(JTA Washington reporter Howard Rosenberg contributed to this report.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.