Israel's 'unshakeable ally' awaits formal response
The US state department says it is waiting for a "formal response" from the Israeli prime minister after his telephone conversation with Hillary Clinton about plans to build new homes for Jews in East Jerusalem. But the USA's relationship with Israel was declared "unshakeable".
The US response has been fast and furious after the announcement of plans to build more than one and a half thousand new homes in East Jerusalem in the middle of a visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden.
It comes ahead of a new round of indirect talks with the Palestinians. Mr Biden had gone out of his way to lavish praise and affection on his host. So the initial reaction to the announcement seemed to be shock as much as anything else.
But in the following days, Hillary Clinton called it "deeply negative" and White House adviser David Axelrod said it was an "affront" and an "insult".
It seems they want to use this as an opportunity to test how serious the Israelis are about more talks.
State department officials would not go into what Mrs Clinton said in the phone call, but said "she did outline some specific things" that she wanted done, both about the housing project and more generally about the talks. One Israel newspaper reports that among her requests were the reversal of the project, and substantial gestures towards the Palestinians.
Asked about the Israeli ambassador's claim that the relationship with the US was at its lowest for 35 years, the spokesman said that Israel was a "strategic ally" and America's commitment was "unshakable".
He repeated that they were awaiting an official response and would then "evaluate the implications".
He said that George Mitchell was in the region and that the beginning of talks was not conditional on the response, but would go ahead if the negotiations could move forward and make progress.