Senior White House and State Department officials have recently met to discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions on Israel in an effort to stop housing construction projects in eastern Jerusalem, Haaretz reported.
The report – which comes as the Obama administration is lobbying furiously against new sanctions on Iran over its illicit nuclear program – is likely to trigger new, bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill over the direction of U.S. Mideast policy.
The Israel sanctions discussions are said to have begun after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House in October and clashed with the administration over the construction of a new housing development in that part of the city.
The administration warned Israel that the project would raise questions about Israel's commitment to peace with the Palestinians. Netanyahu replied that Israel does not accept restrictions on where Jews can live, and that Arabs and Jews in the Israeli capital should be allowed to purchase homes wherever they choose.
On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf dodged questions on whether the administration was considering sanctions against Israel, saying she would not comment on "internal" deliberations.
The possibility of sanctions has "prompted consternation on Capitol Hill and throughout the pro-Israel world," The Washington Free Beacon reported.
"If these reports are true, this would mark a new era of unprecedented hostility from the White House against our strongest ally in the Middle East," a senior congressional aide stated. "It's impossible not to notice the irony of the administration mulling sanctions on Israel while threatening to veto new sanctions against Iran."
"The president should be forewarned that taking such action against Israel would yield tremendous pushback from Congress," the aide added.
Pro-Israel activists expressed similar concerns about reports that the administration is considering sanctions on Israel while fighting them on Iran, which opposes the Jewish state's existence.
"Even this administration, which has been historically hostile to our Israeli allies, even as they worked overtime to bomb the enemies of Iranian proxies across the Middle East, could not possibly be so aggressively committed to undermining our alliances as to levy sanctions against Israel at the same time they're lifting them on Iran," a senior official with a pro-Israel organization told the Free Beacon.