‘Cherry-picked leaks’: US accuses Israel of distorting Iran nuclear talks details

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)
Israel has inaccurately provided information and twisted the official US position and offers in nuclear talks with Iran, the White House and State Department stated, accusing Tel Aviv of “selectively” leaking details of sensitive talks.

There’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told the press.

I think it is safe to say not everything you are hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” echoed State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Earlier in the week, Washington has voiced suspicions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had directly authorized the leaks to the Israeli press, including an alleged offer to Iran to keep 6,500 centrifuges for uranium enrichment. The White House spokesman expressed frustration with “cherry-picked” information he said the Israelis released out of context.

The United States is mindful of the need to not negotiate in public and ensure that information that's discussed in the negotiating table is not taken out of context and publicized in a way that distorts the negotiating position of the United States and our allies,” said Earnest.

Comments from the White House and Foggy Bottom come as Netanyahu is expected to speak before the US Congress on March 3, following the invitation by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that was not cleared with either Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Citing US protocol not to meet world leaders before national elections, Obama has declined to meet with Netanyahu during the Israeli PM’s visit. Elections for the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – are scheduled for March 17.

The Obama administration “apparently believes that Israel and the U.S. now have a conflict of interests regarding the Iranian issue,” an unnamed Israeli government official told Israeli daily Haaretz. According to the source “While US President Barack Obama wants to make every effort to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, Netanyahu is doing everything he can to block one.”

The potential breakthrough agreement with Iran, the administration hopes, could end “three decades of enmity with Iran and reduce the chances of a military confrontation,” the New York Times reports. However, the paper noted, US and Israel are currently “engaging in the diplomatic equivalent of posting notes to each other on the refrigerator door.

Nevertheless security of Israel “remains a top priority of the United States,” Psaki reassured reporters at the State Department. Both governments were in agreement that Iran should not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, she said, emphasizing that Washington “will not accept a bad deal” in talks with Tehran – referring to what is anticipated will be Netanyahu’s argument before the Congress.