Haaretz reports that Israel has not only received a tongue lashing from Secretary Clinton delivered to Ambassador Michael Oren, but has also received four peremptory demands:
1. Investigate the process that led to the announcement of the Ramat Shlomo construction plans in the middle of Biden’s visit. The Americans seek an official response from Israel on whether this was a bureaucratic mistake or a deliberate act carried out for political reasons. Already on Saturday night, Netanyahu announced the convening of a committee to look into the issue.
2. Reverse the decision by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee to approve construction of 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo.
3. Make a substantial gesture toward the Palestinians enabling the renewal of peace talks. The Americans suggested that hundreds of Palestinian prisoners be released, that the Israel Defense Forces withdraw from additional areas of the West Bank and transfer them to Palestinian control, that the siege of the Gaza Strip be eased and further roadblocks in the West Bank be removed.
4. Issue an official declaration that the talks with the Palestinians, even indirect talks, will deal with all the conflict’s core issues – borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security arrangements, water and settlements.
It’s quite a package, if accurate, and it’s hard to see how any self-respecting Israeli government could submit to it. Item number three in addition gives expressive form to the notion that it is dangerous being an ally of the United States in the Age of Obama.
Ambassador Oren is a professional historian and a profound student of history. When he says that U.S.-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35 years, as Haaretz reports, he would know what he’s talking about.