'There is no confrontation with the US'

Former ambassador to Washington says despite "disagreement," relationship with US "very strong."

sallai meridor 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
sallai meridor 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite being at odds over the question of settlements and continued construction in east Jerusalem, the United States and Israel still share a unique relationship, former ambassador to Washington Sallai Meridor said Tuesday, emphasizing that he did not view the latest round of criticism from Washington as evidence of a full-blown "confrontation" between the two countries. "I think this is a disagreement but I don't think it's a confrontation; I think that all in all the Israel-US relationship is a very strong relationship," Meridor told Israel Radio. "This disagreement is real, this disagreement isn't constructive, but one shouldn't examine the Israel-US relationship solely through the prism… of this disagreement." Meridor, who stepped down from his post shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office, presumably over policy differences, said that the blame for the rut in the relations could be laid on both sides, which, he said, had backed out of previous commitments. "Both Israel and the US took stances over the past months that do not necessarily serve the interests shared by both countries," he stated. "At a certain point we tried to distance ourselves from our previous commitment to a Palestinian state - we've since amended this with the prime minister's Bar-Ilan address - and the Americans tried to back out of various understandings on the matter of the settlements. This is not constructive, in my opinion, neither to our interests nor to their interests, because what happened is that… today both the Arabs and the Palestinians are refusing to resume negotiations." Meridor described the relationship between Jerusalem and Washington in unequivocal terms, saying, "The American commitment to Israel, the friendship between America and Israel, are very strong, and even these days when there are disagreements over the settlements, there is great cooperation in military areas. America continues - this administration continues - with its very generous military aid to Israel; some of the most advanced weapons systems are supplied to Israel. Regarding the Iranian issue, in matters pertaining to terror, there is almost daily cooperation between Israel and the United States, and it is important to understand the full picture. "The friendship between Israel and the US is a phenomenon that has no match and nothing similar to it in the entire world," he added. Meridor attempted to explain the reasons behind the tougher stance of the current US administration and its readiness to publicly press Israel on the settlement issue. "What happened here," he said, "is that there is a big change in the United States, not only a political change… the US is in a certain sense recovering after a period of post-trauma over September 11. The Obama administration is making a very large effort to reposition the US in the world, and a very large effort to forge new ties with the Muslim world and the Arab world." From the point of view of the US, "at least according to what they're telling us," Meridor continued, "they think that if they succeed it will also benefit Israel's interests. We must certainly… act with sensitivity so that these moves do not come at the expense of the State of Israel." He said that Israel should live up to its commitment to evacuate unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, stressing, however, that the questions of natural growth in existing settlements and further construction in east Jerusalem were in a separate category. "There is a difference between US expectations of us regarding the outposts, on which we gave a full commitment, and expectations having to do with the settlements in Judea and Samaria - where there were understandings that we had the right to expect the Americans not to stray from - and Jerusalem, since it was clear to the Americans all along that Israel considers Jerusalem to be in a different category," Meridor said.