White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel expressed frustration with the status of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process during a recent conversation with an Israel diplomat, as the US leads intensive efforts to return the two sides to negotiations.
Emanuel spoke to Jacob Dayan, the consul-general in Los Angeles, on the sidelines of a Democratic fundraiser there in December, according to the White House.
A White House official, however, flatly denied other comments attributed to Emanuel in the Israeli press Wednesday, including alleged complaints about the two sides and a threat to withdraw US support for the endeavor.
"In the course of that conversation, Rahm expressed frustration with the lack of progress on the talks," the official said of the chief of staff's conversation with Dayan, which he characterized as "cordial."
He told The Jerusalem Post that reports of other remarks "are wildly inaccurate, and frankly ludicrous to anyone who understands the diplomatic process."
According to a report in Yediot Aharonot, Emanuel told Dayan that the White House was losing patience over the stalled Middle East peace process, that the administration was tiring of the Israelis and Palestinians, and that both were wasting precious time and missing opportunities to reach peace.
A report by Army Radio also said Emanuel warned that if the sides could not overcome their difficulties then the administration would turn to other pressing matters it had to deal with. He reportedly criticized both sides for making moves too late to be helpful.
Dayan reportedly briefed the Foreign Ministry on what Emanuel said.
The Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles refused to comment for this story. However, a statement released overnight Wednesday by the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles expressed "the deepest regrets for the distortions of Emmanuel's views." It went on to describe the Yediot Aharonot report as "harmful."
Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, strongly pushed back against the reports.
He told the Post that on Emanuel's trip to California, the chief of staff "reiterated his unflagging commitment to Israel's security and his devotion to the search for an Israeli-Palestinian peace."
Noting that he knew Emanuel long before becoming Israel's ambassador last year, Oren said, "I want to give my personal assurance of his commitment to Israel and its security. That has never been doubted and should never be questioned."
In addition, Oren said that Dayan has "categorically disassociated himself from this pernicious article, and has expressed his deepest regrets for any distortions it might have caused of Rahm Emanuel's views."
Another senior diplomatic official responded to the reports by saying that Israel has an open dialogue with the Americans, and that there are daily phone conversations between the government and the US administration - with National Security Council head Uzi Arad in constant contact with US National Security Adviser James Jones and his staff, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's adviser Ron Dermer working opposite US Mideast envoy George Mitchell's team.
"The relationship is characterized by openness and transparency," the official said. "I think there is an appreciation of what this government has done to get the diplomatic process back on track."
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