The United States registered an official protest with Israel against its ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, for calling former U.S. President Jimmy Carter an "enemy of Israel" prior to Carter's recent visit to the region.

A senior Foreign Ministry source said Saturday that the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv asked that Gillerman be made aware of the U.S. administration's dissatisfaction with the disrespectful comments about the former U.S. President.

In addition, the State Department is planning to issue a public statement condemning comments made by Gillerman at a press conference in New York on Thursday, where he called Carter a "bigot."

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "went to the region with soiled hands and came back with bloody hands after shaking the hand of Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas," Gillerman told reporters. Gillerman also described the Carter-Meshal as "a very sad episode in American history."

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni refused yesterday to respond to the demand by MK Yossi Beilin that Gillerman be recalled for his statements against Carter. Beilin described the ambassador's statements as "mad."

A Livni aide said that the foreign minister does not normally communicate with Israeli ambassadors through the media.

However, a Foreign Ministry source said that Gillerman is due to leave his post in the coming months, following five years at the UN.

The same source said that Gillerman's attack on Carter "surprised and embarrassed" Jerusalem, which contravened direct instructions from Livni to avoid comments on the former president.

Even though Israel's political leadership expressed its reservations at Carter's intention to meet with the Hamas leaders, the Foreign Ministry contributed to coordinating his meetings and emphasized that no decision was taken to boycott him.