Kerry exchanges with Netanyahu signal brewing crisis in Israeli-U.S. relations

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“How can you say, ‘We’re planning to build in the place that will eventually be Palestine?’” Kerry said. “It sends a message that somehow perhaps you’re not really serious.”

Netanyahu responded the next morning ahead of a meeting with Kerry. “No amount of pressure will make me or the government of Israel compromise on the basic security and national interests of the State of Israel,” the visibly agitated premier said.

Netanyahu also slammed the emerging agreement with Iran. “Iran got the deal of the century, and the international community got a bad deal,” he said. “This is a very bad deal and Israel utterly rejects it.”

He warned that Israel is “not obliged” to honor the agreement and would do “everything it needs to do to defend itself.” Following a tense meeting stretching more than two hours, a planned joint appearance with Kerry and Netanyahu to the media was canceled.

While negotiators in Geneva hammered out details Saturday, the discussed deal appeared to include some relief from painful economic sanctions in exchange for limits on Iranian nuclear activity. However, chances of a deal being struck looked slim late Saturday.

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Saturday the Obama administration was “in full agreement with Israel on the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” and that the negotiations had that goal in mind.

But Netanyahu has said international pressure should be increased, not eased, until Iran dismantles all suspicious nuclear activities. That position puts him at odds with the U.S. as the White House urges Congress to hold off on new sanctions while negotiations are under way.

For now, Netanyahu’s options appear limited. Despite longstanding threats to carry out a military attack on Iran if necessary, it would be all but impossible to do so in the current diplomatic environment. On the Palestinian front, Netanyahu holds most of the leverage and is showing little inclination to change.

Nicholas Burns, a former senior State Department official, said that Netanyahu made an error by airing his grievances publicly.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s public outburst was unfortunate and ill-advised,” Burns, who now teaches at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, wrote in an email. “It has gone down very badly in the U.S.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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