US, Israel drifting apart like never before: Diplomat

Israel`s envoy to US paints grim picture on future of ties between two sides.

Jerusalem: Israel and its closest ally the United States appear to be drifting apart in a "tectonic rift”, the Jewish state`s envoy to Washington Michael Oren has said, painting a grim picture on the future of bilateral ties.

Describing the growing differences between Tel Aviv and Washington, Oren during his briefing on bilateral relations at the foreign ministry last week, said that the two countries were like "continents drifting apart”, Israeli diplomats told daily Ha`aretz newspaper.

The Israeli envoy`s comments come days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House on July 06.

Differences between the long-time allies have grown recently particularly over the Middle East peace process. Oren visited Israel over the past week, briefing at the ministry`s North America and research divisions.

Five Israeli diplomats, some of whom took part in the briefing or were informed about the details, reportedly said that the envoy projected the relations between the two countries in bleak terms.

Oren, however, has denied making such statements. "Relations are in the state of a tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart," Israeli diplomats quoted the Israeli envoy as saying.

Oren is said to have said during the briefing that contrary to Obama`s predecessors, George W Bush and Bill Clinton, the current US President is not motivated by historical-ideological sentiments towards Israel but by "cold interests and considerations".

However, he added that his access as Israel`s ambassador to senior administration officials and close advisers of the President is good.

But Obama has "very tight control over his immediate environment, and it is hard to influence him," Oren said. "This is a one-man show," Oren was quoted as saying.

The envoy also spoke about the anti-Israel reaction stirred in the United States by the deadly incident on a Gaza bound aid flotilla that evoked sharp criticism against Israel across the world.

"Even our close friends came out against us," Oren said adding, "Only after some time, when video from the ship arrived and was aired by the American media, did public opinion begin to shift in Israel`s favour".

The Obama administration has been very vocal against Israel`s settlement policy with the emerging crisis being described by many analysts as the worst between the close allies in the last 35 years.


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