The Obama administration has not denied reports that the White House was mulling sanctions on Israel for construction on Jewish homes in Jerusalem.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf refused to comment on several questions posed on Thursday on the reports doing rounds in the internet that the administration had held a secret meeting to discuss taking action against Israel for its ongoing construction activity in East Jerusalem, reports Free Beacon.
The classified meetings were held several weeks ago and were attended by officials from both the State Department and White House, according to Israeli daily Haaretz, which was the first to report on the issue.
The fact that the administration was possibly considering sanctions against Israel for its ongoing construction came as a surprise to many and signified that the Obama administration was willing to denounce Israel more than previously thought.
It should be noted that Israel is a major US ally in the Middle East and has supported the country over several issues including the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip that killed thousands of Palestinians this summer.
"I'm obviously not going to comment one way or another on reported internal deliberations," Harf said declining to take a stance while asked to address the reports on Thursday afternoon.
"We've made clear our position on settlement activity publicly and that hasn't changed."
Asked if the White House was going further than just harsh rhetoric against Israel, Harf again dodged the question saying she would not "address hypotheticals."
The Haaretz report quoted one senior Israeli official as saying "White House officials held a classified discussion a few weeks ago about the possibility of taking active measures against the settlements."
The official added that the discussion about levying sanctions on Israel had begun after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's October visit to the White House and the subsequent war of words between Washington and Jerusalem over settlement construction.
"If these reports are true, this world mark a new era of unprecedented hostility from the White House against our strongest ally in the Middle East," one senior congressional aide said, according to the report. "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."