WASHINGTON (JTA) — Obama administration officials flatly rejected a claim that it was cutting Israel off from updates about nuclear talks with Iran.
Israel’s Channel 2 on Sunday quoted unidentified sources as saying that Susan Rice, the national security adviser, and Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. diplomat in the talks between Iran and the major world powers, had cut out Israel because of anger over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to address Congress.
“This report is patently false,” National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey said in an email to JTA in answer to a query.
“National Security Advisor Rice maintains regular contact with her Israeli counterpart National Security Advisor [Yossi] 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,” Baskey said. “We also continue our frequent and routine contact at various professional levels within the intelligence, military, and diplomatic spheres.”
A senior State Department official delivered the same message in an email to JTA.
“Conversations continue with Israel on the Iran nuclear negotiations,” the official said. “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). And Secretary [John] Kerry continues his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu about this issue, as has always been the case.”
The Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, coordinated the March 3 speech with Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, without consulting with the White House. Boehner has said he wants Netanyahu to rebut claims by Obama that nuclear talks underway between Iran and the major powers may have a positive outcome.