Kerry, Netanyahu speak by phone amid tensions


(JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hours before the latter left for Washington.

The discussion on Saturday focused on the Iran nuclear talks with the world powers, including the United States, Netanyahu’s visit to Washington and concerns over Israel’s punitive withholding of tax money collected for the Palestinian Authority, The New York Times reported Sunday, citing unnamed American officials.

Netanyahu and Kerry reportedly speak frequently.

The Israeli leader is scheduled to speak Tuesday before a joint session of Congress about concerns over the potential nuclear deal. The address has sparked controversy over protocol issues and its proximity to Israeli elections on March 17, and President Barack Obama said he will not meet with Netanyahu in Washington.

A framework agreement between Iran and the world powers is set to be signed at the end of the month.

Netanyahu in Washington also will speak before the AIPAC conference.

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