Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice offered choice words this week for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his criticism of their diplomatic overtures to Iran.
In doing so, they joined several other senior US officials who, over the course of a week, have accused Israel of leaking details of a diplomatic effort of which it is not a part; of political partisanship; and of hyping the threat Israel would face from a nuclear deal not yet fully formed.
At a briefing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Kerry told members of Congress that Netanyahu has cried wolf once before over Iran, citing his comments last year after world powers and Tehran signed the interim Joint Plan of Action on November 24, 2013.
Netanyahu now “would like to see [the JPOA] extended, having opposed it vehemently in the beginning, calling it the deal of the century for Iran,” Kerry said. Given that initial criticism, Netanyahu “may have a judgment that just may not be correct here,” the secretary of state argued.
The prime minister says the comprehensive nuclear deal under consideration by world powers will endanger the existence of the Jewish state. Netanyahu plans to explain that to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, despite Democratic unease over the speech, which will publicly pit the prime minister against US President Barack Obama.
Susan Rice, the president’s national security adviser, said on Tuesday that Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to address Congress is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between Israel and the United States.
“We’ve been fortunate that politics have not been injected into that relationship,” Rice told American journalist Charlie Rose. But “what has happened over the last several weeks, by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks in advance of his election, is that on both sides, there has now been injected a degree of partisanship.”
Those decisions from both men – Netanyahu and Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner – were “not only unfortunate,” but “destructive,” Rice said.
“[Support for Israel has] always been bipartisan,” she said. “We need to keep it that way. We want it that way. I think Israel wants it that way. The American people want it that way. And when it becomes injected or infused with politics, that’s a problem.”
Negotiators from Iran, the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany seek to clinch a framework agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue by the end of March. The Jerusalem Post reported in November that US officials are suggesting a deal with a sunset clause taking effect in roughly 10 years, during which Iran would gradually be granted the rights and privileges of fellow signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Obama administration is denying claims that a 10-year sunset is under consideration, though the Associated Press continues to report that several phases will be incorporated into the agreement, including an expiration date on specific requirements of Iran after roughly a decade.
On Wednesday, Kerry declined to elaborate, only saying that the goal of the negotiating powers now is to “limit the impact” of Iran’s uranium enrichment program for “a reasonable period of time.”
Rice seemed to acknowledge that the deal will include multiple stages in her interview with Rose on Tuesday night.
All five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Arab powers and Israel believe Iran has been in violation of its international obligations under the NPT, increasing its nuclear program in size and scope while experimenting with weaponization techniques.
“They’re not going to be able to convince anybody on day one that they have stopped enrichment,” Rice told Rose, speaking of a possible deal. “They’re going to have to prove over time through their actions which will be validated that they are, in fact, upholding their commitments. So this will be a phased process any way you slice it.”