US officials question Netanyahu’s judgement

Escalation of hostile exchanges between traditional allies comes six days before Israel PM gives speech to US Congress.

John Kerry
Kerry advised waiting to hear what Netanyahu had to say in next Tuesday's speech to the US Congress [AP]

United States officials have questioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judgement and said his outspoken condemnation of efforts to secure an Iranian nuclear deal had injected destructive partisanship into US-Israeli relations.

In an escalation of hostile exchanges between the allies six days before Netanyahu gives a speech to Congress on the threat from Iran, the Israeli leader accused world powers of abandoning a pledge to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, engaged in international talks with Tehran on its nuclear programme, said on Wednesday that Netanyahu may be wrong. Kerry told a congressional hearing: “He may have a judgement that just may not be correct here”.

Kerry advised waiting to hear what Netanyahu had to say in Tuesday’s speech. Republicans who control Congress invited Netanyahu and agree with his opposition to an Iran deal.

He may have a judgement that just may not be correct here.

by John Kerry, US Secretary of State

But Kerry said Netanyahu “was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision”.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, echoing comments by President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, warned against allowing the US-Israeli relationship to be reduced to a party political issue, saying this would be destructive.

“The president has said the relationship between the US and Israel can’t just be reduced to a relationship between the Republican party and the Likud party,” he told reporters, referring to Netanyahu’s party.

Election politics

The Republicans did not consult Obama or Democrats in Congress, as is customary before extending an invitation, and Obama said he would not meet Netanyahu because it would be so close to March 17 Israeli elections.

Netanyahu said in a speech in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem that world powers had pledged to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons but appeared to have given up on this commitment.

He said the deal apparently coming together with Iran would allow the country that has in the past threatened to destroy Israel to develop the means to create fissile material to produce many nuclear weapons.

“I respect the White House and the president of the United States but on such a fateful matter, that can determine whether or not we survive, I must do everything to prevent such a great danger for Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Iran says its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes.

Source: Reuters