Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a long and difficult phone conversation on Thursday evening, their first conversation in more than three weeks. Kerry reported his conversation in an interview with PBS on Friday, calling Netanyahu’s claim that a better nuclear deal with Iran could have been obtained as “fantasy.”
- Khamenei: Despite Nuclear Deal, Policy Toward 'Arrogant' U.S. Won't Change
- Israel Influenced Much of the Iran Nuke Deal, Says Chief U.S. Negotiator
- Iran Nuclear Deal - a Good Accord for Israel
- A Victory for Israel, a Loss for Iran’s Supreme Leader
State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday evening that during the conversation, Netanyahu "expressed his concerns, many of the same concerns that he has expressed publicly. Secretary Kerry walked the prime minister through the reasons why we believe this is the right deal, it’s a good deal – not just for our national security interests, but the national security interests of the Israeli people and the Government of Israel, as well as our allies and partners in the region.”
Kerry told PBS that Netanyahu and other detractors of the agreement had not presented an alternative. “They all say, ‘Oh, why didn’t you crush them with the sanctions?’ I will tell you why. Because they won’t be crushed by sanctions. That’s been proven. And because we will lose the other people who are helping to provide those sanctions. They are not going to do that if Iran is willing to make a reasonable agreement. So, there is a lot of fantasy out there about this – quote – 'better deal.'"
Kerry said that if the United States would have acted according to Netanyahu’s demands and imposed more sanctions on Iran, the coalition between the world powers would have fallen apart. He added that Russia, China and other world powers wouldn’t have agreed to impose more sanctions while Iran was accepting what looked like a reasonable agreement.
In Thursday’s phone call, Kerry reiterated President Barack Obama’s offer to Netanyahu two days earlier: To upgrade the Israel Defense Forces’ capabilities, and security and intelligence cooperation with the United States.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is expected to arrive in Israel on Sunday evening, ahead of meetings to discuss Israel’s security needs with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Kerry is expected to hold a summit in the first week of August with the foreign ministers of the Gulf states to discuss the agreement with Iran. The possibility of a visit by Kerry to Israel during his August visit did not come up in Thursday’s phone call between the secretary of state and the prime minister.
The face-off between Kerry and Netanyahu over the agreement with Iran will become an open battle for U.S. public opinion on Sunday. Kerry is set to appear, together with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz – who took part in the talks with Iran over the nuclear agreement – on morning shows on four U.S. networks, including ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Netanyahu, meanwhile, will be interviewed right afterward on the ABC and CBS shows, where he will try to counter the secretary of state’s arguments.