WASHINGTON – The White House and the State Department publicly warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that if he reveals details about the emerging deal with Iran in his speech to Congress on Tuesday, the U.S. administration will see this as a “betrayal” of America’s trust.
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Administration spokesmen issued the warning in response to statements made by senior officials in Netanyahu’s entourage at a briefing for reporters on the prime minister’s flight to Washington. The officials said Israel has a great deal of information about the emerging nuclear agreement with Iran that it obtained independently, but their impression is that many members of Congress aren't fully aware of these details. Consequently, they said, Netanyahu will use Tuesday’s speech to brief them on the matter.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Switzerland on Monday for a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was the first to respond by issuing a warning, though he didn’t mention Netanyahu’s speech directly.
"We are concerned by reports that suggest selected details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days," Kerry told reporters in Geneva. "I want to say clearly, doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get a good deal.”
A few hours later, in her daily briefing for reporters, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the administration had given Israel a great deal of detailed, classified information about the nuclear talks with Iran, and this was what Kerry had been referring to in his remarks.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest then delivered a much more pointed warning at his own daily briefing for reporters, in which he referred directly to Netanyahu. Should the prime minister’s speech disclose information about the talks with Iran that the United States had given Israel, he said, this would “betray” America’s trust.
Over the past few weeks, the administration has reduced the quantity and quality of information it gives Israel about the talks with Iran. Senior U.S. officials said this was done because the administration believed Netanyahu was leaking this information in a tendentious fashion with the goal of undermining the nuclear negotiations.
On Monday, Channel 10 television reported that Washington had ceased all intelligence cooperation with Israel on the Iranian nuclear issue, and not just information sharing about the negotiations. But Alistair Baskey, deputy spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, denied this report.