Photo: AFP
Netanyahu and Obama in previous White House meeting
Photo: AFP

US officials: Netanyahu using Congress speech on Iran to 'play politics'

American official says Obama, Kerry urged Netanyahu not to lobby for more sanctions against Iran shortly before announcement on planned Congress speech.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "playing politics" with the relationship between Israel and the United States over the Iran issue, CNN quoted a senior Obama administration official as saying on Saturday.



Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have urged Netanyahu not to lobby in favor of new Iran sanctions, the official said.


"We asked the Israelis in private and public to sit tight and the President made clear if a deal wasn't reached he would be the first in line advocating for more sanctions," the official told CNN.


Netanyahu and Obama meet at the White House in previous visit (Photo: Reuters)
Netanyahu and Obama meet at the White House in previous visit (Photo: Reuters)


Netanyahu's March 3 speech in front of Congress on the Iran threat, organized by US House Speaker John Boehner and Israel's Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, was planned without coordination and consultation with the White House, in breach of diplomatic protocol.


Obama spoke with Netanyahu on the phone a little over a week before Boehner's announcement that the Israeli premier had accepted his invitation to come speak in front of Congress. Kerry, meanwhile, met for several hours with Dermer a day before the announcement. Neither Netanyahu nor Dermer mentioned the Boehner's invitation to Obama or Kerry, CNN reported.


Related stories:


"Is this a smart way for them to manage the relationship?" CNN quoted a source close to Kerry as saying. "The bilateral relationship is unshakable, but playing politics with that relationship could blunt Secretary Kerry's enthusiasm for being Israel's primary defender." Kerry's "patience is not infinite," the source added.


Another senior US official told CNN that US officials working on the diplomatic relations between the two countries were frustrated by Boehner's announcement. "They come to us with a lot of requests, but don't have the courtesy of telling us? That is what tipped it for us," the official was quoted as saying.


The official said Netanyahu's failure to inform the administration of his plans to speak to Congress has repercussions. "The last thing we want to do is hurt Israel, but if he is able to stiff the US president like that and we still offer him a meeting - that invites him and anyone else to do that over and over."


'A hostile attempt to lobby Congress'

An editorial printed in the New York Times on Friday also accused Netanyahu of "playing politics with Iran" ahead of the March 17 elections in Israel.


"Mr. Netanyahu, facing an election on March 17, apparently believes that winning the applause of Congress by rebuking Mr. Obama will bolster his standing as a leader capable of keeping Israel safe," the New York Times' editorial asserted.


Despite that, the paper claims, "it’s hard to see how disrespecting an American president whom even he says has significantly advanced Israel’s security can benefit his country."


The New York Times views the planned address as "a hostile attempt to lobby Congress to enact more sanctions against Iran." Obama has threatened to veto any such move by Congress.


While Netanyahu has expressed his contempt for negotiations with the Islamic Republic, "like his Congressional allies he has never offered a real alternative, except more sanctions (which can’t work if the rest of the world eases up on Iran) or military action," the paper said. 


"There is no doubt that Mr. Obama will maintain America’s security commitments to Israel, whatever the tensions over the Iran issue," the Times says, but Obama won't meet with Netanyahu in his upcoming relationship, and even Kerry, "who recently called almost 50 world leaders in an effort to block the Palestinians’ attempt to join the International Criminal Court, is losing patience with Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to 'play politics.'"


The Times asserts that "this event is bound to further harm a bilateral relationship that has endured a lot of battering over the past six years" and wonders whether Netanyahu can "really afford to dismiss such allies."


פרסום ראשון: 01.24.15, 10:58
 new comment
See all talkbacks "US officials: Netanyahu using Congress speech on Iran to 'play politics'"
This will delete your current comment