Kerry: I Hope Netanyahu's Speech Doesn’t Turn Into 'Political Football'

U.S. Secretary of State also says that the U.S. deserves 'the benefit of the doubt' to see if a nuclear deal can be reached with Iran Netanyahu heads to Washington for 'historic mission.'

Barak Ravid
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Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015.
Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015.Credit: AP
Barak Ravid

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the United States deserves "the benefit of the doubt" to see if a nuclear deal can be reached with Iran that would prevent any need for military action to curb Tehran's atomic ambitions.

Kerry also said he hoped that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned speech to Congress on Tuesday, in which he will warn against a possible nuclear deal with Iran, does not turn into "some great political football."

U.S. and international partners are in negotiation with Iran over curbing its nuclear program but Netanyahu has cast doubt on a possible deal and says a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. The Israeli leader was invited to speak this week by Republican congressional leaders who did not first inform President Barack Obama's administration.

In an interview with the ABC program "This Week," Kerry said of the Iran negotiations, "It is better to do this by diplomacy than to have to do a strategy militarily which you would have to repeat over and over again and which everybody believes ought to be after you have exhausted all the diplomatic remedies."

Kerry added that "I can't promise you we can" reach a nuclear deal with Iran, "but we are going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this weapon from being created so you don't have to turn to additional measures including the possibility of a military confrontation."

"Our hope is diplomacy can work. ... Given our success on the interim agreement, I believe we deserve the benefit of the doubt to find out whether or not we can get a similarly good agreement with respect to the future," he said.

Kerry did say that Netanyahu is "welcome to speak in the United States, obviously," referring to the controversy over Israeli leader's speech, which comes just two weeks before elections in Israel.

Speaking before boarding the plane on Sunday, Netanyahu said that "today, on the eve of the Fast of Esther, I'm embarking on a historic mission. I feel like the emissary of all the people of Israel, even those who don't agree with me."

"I am profoundly concerned about the fate of Israel and our people. I will do everything in my power to guarantee our future," Netanyahu added.

Netanyahu is expected to participate in the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference on Monday, but the focal point of his trip will be his speech to Congress, which will take place on Tuesday at 11:00 A.M. Washington time (6 P.M. Israel time).

Netanyahu will address the talks between the world powers and Iran over the latter's nuclear program. The speech has aroused controversy and drawn harsh criticism both in Israel and in the United States, and has tainted the relationship between Netanyahu and the Obama administration.