Senior officials in both the State Department and White House denied on Sunday evening reports in the Israeli media that the Obama administration is “punishing” Israel for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and has stopped sharing information with Israel about the nuclear talks with Iran.
The report on Channel 2 News stated that Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is in charge of the nuclear talks with Iran, has announced that she is no longer briefing Israel about the talks, because the Israeli government is using the information in a manipulative and political way.
Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, has also announced that she is cutting off contact with her Israeli counterpart, Yossi Cohen, because Israel has turned an international security issue to a political one, and is using it to influence internal U.S. politics, reported Channel 2.
Senior Obama administration officials denied the reports as false and told the Washington Free Beacon that conversations with Israel are ongoing.
“Conversations continue with Israel on the Iran nuclear negotiations,” a senior State Department official who asked not to be named told the website.
“Under Secretary Sherman met with Israeli NSA Cohen and Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Planning [Yuval] Steinitz in Munich and will see NSA Cohen again this week (the Iran negotiations were obviously the main topic of conversation),” the official added.
“And Secretary Kerry continues his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu about this issue, as has always been the case,” the senior official continued.
The White House National Security Council (NSC) also denied the reports.
“This report is patently false,” NSC Spokesperson Alistair Baskey said in a statement quoted by the Free Beacon. “National Security Adviser Rice maintains regular contact with her Israeli counterpart National Security Adviser Cohen on the full range of issues of mutual concern to our nations, and will in fact meet with him later this week at the White House.”
“We also continue our frequent and routine contact at various professional levels within the intelligence, military, and diplomatic spheres,” the NSC said.
The speech that Netanyahu will give before Congress at the beginning of next month has brought to light the tensions between Israel and the United States, as the White House has made clear that neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet Netanyahu while he is in Washington, explaining that American policy is not to meet foreign leaders on dates that are close to national elections in their countries.
Furthermore, Vice President Joe Biden has announced that he will be travelling abroad during the joint session of Congress and will not be present when Netanyahu gives his speech.