WASHINGTON - Bi-partisan congressmen spoke out against the Obama administration's denunciation of Israel, which surfaced during and after Vice President Joe Biden's trip to the region last week.
Senior lawmakers and pro-Israel Americans criticized Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's dressing down during a lengthy phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday.
Clinton linked U.S. support with Israel's meeting U.S. expectations on behalf of the Palestinians and said her harsh rhetoric fully expressed President Barack Obama's position.
"It's hard to see how spending a weekend condemning Israel for a zoning decision in its capital city amounts to a positive step toward peace," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. The administration should be focusing on the Iranian nuclear threat rather than attacking a "staunch ally and friend," the senator said.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., called the administration's position "irresponsible overreaction."
"The administration's strong implication that the enduring alliance between the U.S. and Israel has been weakened and that America's ability to broker talks between Israel and the Palestinian authorities has been undermined is an irresponsible overreaction," Berkley said.
Obama administration envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, who is supposed to mediate "proximity" talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, delayed his Monday evening departure to the region.
The U.S. State Department said on Monday that it is awaiting Israel's formal response to Clinton's phone call.
According to State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, the outcome of the situation depends on Israel's willingness to agree to Clinton's demands, which include conciliatory gestures such as releasing Palestinian prisoners, agreeing to halt construction in Jerusalem and committing to address core issues early in U.S.-mediated third-party talks.
Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman said he was shocked at the Obama administration's position.
"We cannot remember an instance when such harsh language was directed at a friend and ally of the United States," Foxman said.
AP contributed to this report.