Photo: AP
US Secretary of State John Kerry
Photo: AP

Kerry: Netanyahu welcome to speak, but US deserves 'benefit of doubt' on Iran

NYT says Kerry spoke to Netanyahu on developments in Iranian talks before Netanyahu took off for US visit, controversial Congress speech.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "obviously welcome to speak in the US" but added he hoped the prime minister's planned address to Congress would not turn into "some great political football."



Kerry, speaking on the ABC program "This Week," said on Sunday the US deserves "the benefit of the doubt" to see if a nuclear deal can be reached with Iran that would prevent any need for military action to curb Tehran's atomic ambitions.


US Secretary of State John Kerry (Photo: AP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (Photo: AP)

Kerry said of the Iran negotiations, "It is better to do this by diplomacy than to have to do a strategy militarily which you would have to repeat over and over again and which everybody believes ought to be after you have exhausted all the diplomatic remedies."


Kerry added that "I can't promise you we can" reach a nuclear deal with Iran, "but we are going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this weapon from being created so you don't have to turn to additional measures including the possibility of a military confrontation."


"Our hope is diplomacy can work. ... Given our success on the interim agreement, I believe we deserve the benefit of the doubt to find out whether or not we can get a similarly good agreement with respect to the future," he said. 


Meanwhile, as Netanyahu made his way to the US, citing American officials, the New York Times reported that Kerry spoke with Netanyahu on the phone Saturday.


According to the quoted official, the phone call focused on recent developments in negotiations with Iran, as well as Netanyahu’s visit and Kerry’s concern about the economic woes of the Palestinian Authority.


Netanyahu departed for the United States on Sunday, for what he termed an "historic" mission that will include a controversial address to Congress that will criticize the current agreement being drafted on Iran's nuclear program.


Netanyahu and wife Sara take off for US (Photo: GPO) (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO)
Netanyahu and wife Sara take off for US (Photo: GPO)


Netanyahu's speech to Congress has sparked outrage both in Israel and the US, where critics have accused him of using the speech to bolster his own political chances in the March 17 Knesset elections. The speech also caused controversy over the fact that the White House was apparently deliberately kept in the dark about the invitation to the prime minister, issued by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.


"I feel I am the representative of all Israel, even those who disagree with me. I feel a deep concern for the fate of Israel. I will do everything to guarantee our future," Netanyahu said before talking off.


Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni on Sunday accused Netanyahu of sacrificing the US-Israel relationship for the sake of a handful of voters in the upcoming election.


The speech will have a five-minute delay in transmission in Israel, to allow any comments perceived by the Central Elections Committee as electioneering to be cut out.


Meanwhile, a Likud lawmaker expressed the hope Sunday that the speech would have a positive impact for the party in the elections.


Prominent members of the US Jewish community have urged Netanyahu to delay the speech until after the elections, but the prime minister declared Saturday that he would not be deterred from delivering the address.


Dozens of Democratic politicians will be missing when Netanyahu speaks in Congress on Tuesday, among them Vice President Joe Biden, whose absence behind the prime minister as he speaks will be most conspicuous.



Other lawmakers who will skip the address include Senators Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy and Tim Kaine, and Representatives Barbara Lee, Mark Pocan and Jan Schakowsky.


Iran: Netanyahu undermining talks

Iran's foreign minister has accused Netanyahu of trying to undermine Iran's negotiations towards a nuclear deal with world powers in order to distract from the Palestinian question.


"It is regrettable that a certain group sees benefits in tension and crises... Netanyahu is opposed to any sort of solution," Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni, on Saturday.


Zarif is due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry and other Western officials in Switzerland this week to try to reach a deal on Iran's disputed nuclear programme. The West fears Iran wants to develop the atomic bomb. Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons.


"This shows an attempt to take advantage of a fabricated crisis to cover up the realities of the region which include the occupation and repression of the people of Palestine and the violation of their rights," Zarif said.


Israel fears that Obama's Iran diplomacy, with an end-of-March deadline for a framework nuclear agreement, will still allow its arch foe to develop an atom bomb


Itamar Eichner and Reuters contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 03.01.15, 16:40
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