In a stinging rebuke, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress is “destructive” to the “fabric” of the relationship between Israel and the US.
In an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS, Rice blamed Netanyahu and Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner for deteriorating relations between the two countries.
“What has happened over the last several weeks, by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu, two weeks in advance of his election, is that on both sides there has now been injected a degree of partisanship which is not only unfortunate it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship,” she said.
“It’s always been bipartisan. We need to keep it that way. When it becomes injected with politics that’s a problem,” she added.
Netanyahu’s upcoming speech has proved controversial with the Obama administration as it seeks a permanent agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
The prime minister will urge US lawmakers to increase pressure on Iran and not ease sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Details of an emerging nuclear deal sees the US and other world powers easing sanctions and softening diplomatic relations with Iran.
The speech is slated two weeks before Netanyahu faces elections back in Israel. Obama has accused Netanyahu of using the speech to beef up his campaign and garner more votes back home.
The prime minister has rebuffed the criticism, saying that as leader of Israel it is his “sacred duty” to defend the interests and survival of his country from an enemy that seeks its ultimate destruction.
When asked why she thinks Netanyahu would continue to give his speech despite all the backlash, Rice responded, “I’m not going to ascribe motives to the prime minister.”
“Let him explain for himself. The point is we want the relationship between the United States and Israel to unquestionably strong, immutable, regardless of political seasons in either country, regardless of which country maybe in charge in either country,” she said. “We’ve worked very hard to have that and we will work very hard to maintain that.”
With negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 underway, Israel and other Arab nations are warning of an emerging “bad deal.” Despite reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran may very well be using its nuclear program for non-peaceful purposes, western powers are eager to reach a settlement with the Islamic Republic.
Earlier this month, IAEA Chairman Yukiya Amano said that Iran was being evasive about its nuclear program. Amano told Israel Radio that Iranian officials are unresponsive and appear to be covering up their attempts at developing nuclear weapons.
“They’re not going to be able to convince anybody on day one that they have stopped enrichment,” Rice said in response to a question on whether the US will ease sanctions immediately upon reaching a deal. “They’re going to have to prove over time through their actions which will be validated that they are, in fact, upholding their commitments.”
With the March 31 deadline quickly approaching to reach a framework agreement with Iran, the Obama administration is in its final sprint to the finish line. In an unusual and stunning revelation, White House officials admitted to withholding sensitive information on nuclear talks from Israel out of fear that Israeli officials will try to sabotage negotiations.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a veiled jab at Netanyahu for publicly voicing his opposition to the negotiated deal.
“The President has made clear – I can’t state this more firmly: the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. Anybody running around right now, jumping to say well, we don’t like the deal, or this or that, doesn’t know what the deal is. There is no deal yet,” Kerry told a Congressional hearing.
Kerry went on to emphasize that diplomatic means is the “most effective way to solve the problem and we will prove that over the course of these next weeks and months.”