Netanyahu's Congress Stunt Could Cost Israel American Support, U.S. Officials Warn

'Playing politics' with Israel-U.S. ties could discourage Kerry from defending Israel in the international arena, U.S. officials tell the Washington Post.


The way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel's ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer have conducted themselves in relations to Netanyahu's invitation to address Congress could discourage U.S. Secretary John Kerry from defending Israel in the international arena, American officials told the Washington Post on Friday.

According to the Post, Dermer, who on Tuesday met with Kerry for more the two hours, did not mention Netanyahu's plan to speak before Congress or House Speaker John Boehner's public invitation, which was made public the following day.

Senior U.S. officials warned that the breach of protocol on Netanyahu's and Dermer's part could have long-term consequences for the Israeli prime minister.

"The bilateral relationship is unshakeable, but playing politics with that relationship could blunt Secretary Kerry’s enthusiasm for being Israel’s primary defender," a source close to Kerry told the Post. "The secretary’s patience is not infinite."

In the past weeks, the officials said, Kerry has made more than 50 calls in the past weeks to world leaders on issues important to Israel, such as the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations and the Palestinian move to join the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

On Friday, Haaretz reported that U.S. President Barack Obama has demanded that Netanyahu stop encouraging senators and congressmen to advance new sanctions legislation against Iran. A senior American official said Obama gave Netanyahu this message during a telephone call last week.

Obama stressed to Netanyahu that he is seeking to reach an agreement with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons, the official added, and that if should such legislation pass Congress, he intends to veto it.

Obama also warned Netanyahu not to meddle in the battle he is waging against Congress over the sanctions legislation, the official said. Netanyahu’s address, which will take place at the height of the battle between Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress, is expected to focus on the Iranian nuclear issue and what he sees as the need to ratchet up the pressure on the Iran.