Published On: Mon, Feb 16th, 2015

Is the US Cutting Off Israel on Iran Talks, or Was It Just Scare Tactics?

Netanyahu has taken a huge gamble in his decision to go ahead and speak to the Congress over Obama's head.

obama + rice

State Department and White House Senior officials on Sunday went out of their way to deny reports that the Obama administration has decided to stop letting Israel in on information regarding its nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Israel’s Channel 2 News on Sunday reported that a change is to be expected in the access given Israel to information about the talks with Iran on curbing that country’s nuclear program.

A Ynet headline late Sunday night read: “Report: US cuts Israel out of Iran talks.”

An Israel Radio headline read: Worsening of Relations with U.S. – Israel will not be updated on nuclear talks.

The Ynet sub-headline, as well as the radio report, already included the denials: “White House denies Channel 2 report claiming US has stopped updating Israel about developments in nuclear negotiations with Iran in response to Netanyahu’s planned Congress speech, after Boehner admits he failed to tell administration he had invited PM.”

Yes, it’s hard to read that sub-headline with one breath, but even if you break for air in the middle, it’s clear that the story is about something that did not happen, but is very clearly based on a real threat, voice by real White House people.

Over the past few months, the White House has used the Jewish media to hit back against a prime minister neither the president not his secretary of state like very much. You’ll recall the “chickenshit” comment in the Jeffrey Goldberg story, which was only the most glaring of numerous hostile comments, delivered in an underhanded manner.

There is, obviously, a threatening message here for the prime minister and for the country from whence he is coming to Washington in two and a half weeks. But threats do not a foreign policy make.

Netanyahu has taken a huge gamble in his decision to go ahead and speak to the Congress over Obama’s head. It probably takes either nerves or steel, or a borderline sociopathic personality, or both, to bet on these high stakes. It’s only fitting that the Administration deliver a mean, harsh, anonymous threat, to set him straight on just what he’s about to do.

Otherwise, everybody is denying everything.

The Washington Free Beacon on Sunday cited a senior State Department official who said, “Conversations continue with Israel on the Iran nuclear negotiations. Under Secretary Sherman met with Israeli NSA Cohen and Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Planning Steinitz in Munich and will see NSA Cohen again this week (the Iran negotiations were obviously the main topic of conversation).”

The same official added: “And Secretary Kerry continues his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu about this issue, as has always been the case, ” the senior official said.

NSC Spokesperson Alistair Baskey said in a statement Sunday: “This report is patently false, 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.

So, while the White House continues to be angry at Netanyahu for breaking protocol and not seeking its approval for the speech March 3 before a joint session of Congress, no one in the Obama administration is really planning to “cut off” Israel on the Iran talks.

All of this will certainly change come March 17, Israel’s election day. If Netanyahu wins, it would mean the gamble paid off and the Administration would be forced to cooperate with him, like it or not.

Should he lose, they’d be uncorking the champagne bottles in the oval office.

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