Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has gently pushed back at the inference that his government does not know the details of a proposed agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, after the State Department confirmed that it is not sharing everything about the negotiations with the Israelis.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is relentlessly pursuing nuclear weapons with the express purpose of destroying the state of Israel,” Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.).
“The P5+1’s latest proposal won’t stop them,” he continued, referring to the group of U.N. Security Council permanent members and Germany which is negotiating a deal with Tehran.
“The Iranians of course know the details of that proposal and Israel does too. So when we say that the current proposal would lead to a bad deal, a dangerous deal, we know what we’re talking about.”
Asked Thursday about Netanyahu’s comments, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki pointed to her remarks at her daily press briefing a day earlier, when she confirmed reports that the P5+1 was not sharing all details of the talks with Israel, but also said that Israel’s security “remains a top priority of the United States.”
Psaki said Wednesday it had long been the case that “we take steps to ensure that classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors in these negotiations.”
Asked whether it was then correct that details are not being shared with the Israelis, she replied, “I wouldn’t put that fine of a point on it. I think there are some details that obviously we have concern about being in public, to respect and protect the negotiations. And those are details that we take steps to ensure are not – don’t get into the public.”
“So is one of those steps not telling the Israelis about them?” … asked the Associated Press’ Matt Lee.
“Again, I think we share a great deal. Obviously, there are steps we take, including what we share and how we consult with our counterparts, including the Israelis.”
“I understand that you share a great deal, but you’re saying that you don’t share everything. Is that correct?” Lee asked
“Correct,” Psaki answered.
“So you are withholding some details.”
The Israeli government says Iran’s nuclear ambitions entail an existential threat to the Jewish state, and Netanyahu plans to address the U.S. Congress early next month – ahead of a late March deadline for an agreement – to explain his view that the proposed Iran-P5+1 deal is a bad one.
That plan has stoked tensions with the administration, and both Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry plan to meet with the prime minister during his visit.
Psaki said the administration believed there had been “a selective sharing of information” on the part of the Israelis.
“I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks.”
In his comment to Perdue, Netanyahu said he was open to hearing the views of those who disagreed with him about the dangers inherent in the proposed deal. “I would hope that they would be open to hear the arguments of Israel as well.”
Perdue told him that he looked forward to hearing what Netanyahu has to say when he visits Washington.