US stops intelligence sharing over speech — reports
Live updates (now closed)Latest: State Dept. warns Israel not to ‘betray’ US

US urges Israel not to ‘betray’ trust, leak nuke talks details

White House says military action against Iran won't work, but chance of deal only 50-50; Netanyahu tells pro-Israel lobby alliance with US 'strong' despite rift

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the AIPAC 2015 Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 2, 2015. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the AIPAC 2015 Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 2, 2015. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)
  • A map shown by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to illustrate Iran's 'tentacles of terror', projected during his speech at the annual AIPAC meeting in Washington. (photo credit: Screen capture)
    A map shown by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to illustrate Iran's 'tentacles of terror', projected during his speech at the annual AIPAC meeting in Washington. (photo credit: Screen capture)
  • Samantha Power speaking to AIPAC on March 2, 2015. (Screen capture: via YouTube)
    Samantha Power speaking to AIPAC on March 2, 2015. (Screen capture: via YouTube)

Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the policy conference of pro-Israel lobby AIPAC Monday, telling the group that reports of strains in ties with the US were overblown and thanking US President Obama, a day before a controversial speech to Congress.

Ahead of his address US envoy to the UN Samantha Power defended the White House’s record on Israel.

Meanwhile, the White House said Obama did not watch Netanyahu’s AIPAC address and will likely not watch his speech to Congress tomorrow. It said the chances for a deal with Iran remain 50-50, and that a military strike against Iran wouldn’t be effective.

The State Department cautioned Israel against revealing information about the negotiations, saying it would “betray” America’s trust.

Back home, Israeli politicians remained focused on elections, with Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid saying he would not necessarily recommend the leader of the party with the most Knesset seats to President Reuven Rivlin for the role of prime minister.

After Israeli elections, the president asks the leaders of all parties that made it into Knesset who they want to see as PM.

The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded.

Lapid won’t commit on recommendation for PM

During the presentation of Yesh Atid’s platform on Monday in Tel Aviv, party leader Yair Lapid responds in the negative when a Haaretz reporter asks him whether he will stick by his commitment from the last election to recommend that the president entrust the leader of the strongest party with the building of the next coalition.

According to Israeli law, the prime minister is appointed by the president, based on recommendations of the leaders of all the parties that won seats in the Knesset. While the president – on principle – can choose as he wishes, in Israel’s history the president has never gone squarely against the recommendations of party leaders.

During the previous government, Netanyahu was prime minister despite his Likud party having won fewer seats in the Knesset than the Kadima party. At the time, Netanyahu was able to establish a right-wing bloc majority coalition, while then Kadima leader Tzipi Livni could not cobble together a government.

Lapid, when he established his party, said he would always recommend the leader of the party with the most seats. On Monday his platform omitted this commitment.

Kerry doesn’t want details of Iran deal leaked

US Secretary of State John F. Kerry sends a veiled warning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to reveal details of the deal between world powers and Iran during his speech to Congress, Israel Radio reports.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives to a press briefing on March 2, 2015 at the opening day of UN human right council session at the United Nations offices in Geneva. (photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at a press briefing on March 2, 2015 at the opening day of a UN Human Rights Council session at the United Nations offices in Geneva. (photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Kerry does not mention Netanyahu by name but says he is very concerned over reports that details of the draft deal will be revealed, since this would make it harder for the sides to finalize an agreement.

Ya’alon says attack on Iran is ‘last resort’

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says that Israel and the Gulf states see eye-to-eye on the Iranian nuclear threat and adds that Israel will cooperate with any necessary partners in order to handle threats against it.

During an interview to al-Hura, an American TV network, Ya’alon adds that the option of attacking Iran is still on the table but military action would be the last resort.

Ya’alon’s full interview will be aired on Monday evening in al-Hura.

4 foreign workers barricade selves atop crane

Four foreign workers have been barricading themselves on a crane in a construction site in Ra’anana since the morning and are threatening to jump to their deaths unless the subcontractor who hired them pays them their salary in cash immediately.

Initially, Haaretz reports, three Chinese workers, one African and another of unknown origin were barricaded on the crane, but several hours ago one of them went down and four others remained.

The five men work at a site in the Neve Zemer neighborhood in Ra’anana. When the incident started, police cars, firefighters, an interpreter and representatives of the contractor arrived at the scene and tried negotiating with the workers, urging them to descend. The talks failed when the subcontractor said he would pay the workers only on March 20. The subcontractor and firefighters have left the premises and only one police car remains at the scene.

All the while, prospective homeowners continued to arrive at the sales office down below.

Today’s incident echoes a previous incident at the same site, when three Chinese workers barricaded themselves at the top of a crane for many hours.

Netanyahu speech in an hour

Netanyahu is set to address the AIPAC conference at 5 p.m. Israel time, 10 a.m. in Washington, DC, one hour from now.

United Nations envoy Samantha Power will speak before him.

Czech president addresses AIPAC

Czech President Miloš Zeman addresses the AIPAC forum.

He condemns the “growing wave of so-called international terrorism” and is careful to note that it is Islamic terrorism. The audience applauds this statement.

He says there are two steps to fight against this growing wave — “the first phase is of course, expression of solidarity.”

The president quotes JFK’s famous proclamation: “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

“Now we all must say: I am a Jew,” he adds, and receives a standing ovation.

Milos Zeman, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel on Monday October 7. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Milos Zeman, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel on Monday October 7. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

“But this is not enough; of course your discrimination is our discrimination. Your victims are our victims.”

He proposes a “systematic and coordinated fight” against Islamic terrorism.

The president appeals for “coordinated action of the international community, if possible, under the umbrella of [the] Security Council.” The president says countries have many conflicts, but “one common enemy, Islamic terrorism.”

Zeman calls for “a new fight” — with no tanks, no artillery, but drones, and intelligence.

“Never again we shall go, we shall march like a sheep to the slaughter,” he concludes. “Never again.”

The Czech president receives a standing ovation.

Samantha Power addresses AIPAC

UN envoy Samantha Power addresses the AIPAC forum.

Power says it’s a “great honor to be here” and thanks the organizers.

She mentions the history of Jan Karski, who disguised himself in 1942, and smuggled himself into the Warsaw Ghetto and concentration camps.

“Jews in Poland almost completely annihilated,” his cable later read, once he arrived in London, detailing the Nazi atrocities. “Believe the unbelievable.”

She moves on to the establishment of the State of Israel.

“The Shoah gave this long-held dream greater urgency,” she says.

Power says she became a journalist after she was moved by the Holocaust and covered the Bosnian conflict.

“I was chilled by what I saw, and was chilled equally by the slowness of the world’s response,” she says.

Power says UN ‘biased’ against Israel

She says that she was moved by Yad Vashem’s children memorial during a visit to Israel two decades ago.

“You do not have to be Jewish to feel the searing loss,” she says.

She says the creation of the UN, and of Israel, are more than a reaction to evil.

“It is bitterly unjust that the UN… is so often used cynically to treat Israel unequally.”

Attacks against Israel are “biased” and “ugly” and US will do everything to combat them, she vows.

Power makes light of PM’s visit

Power makes light of Netanyahu’s visit, saying “some of you may have heard” he is in town, and there are “rumors” he will address Congress.

The US “believes firmly” that Israel “transcends politics and it always will.”

Our commitments to israel are “bedrock commitments,” she says.

“This partnership should never be politicized, and it cannot and should not be tarnished or broken.”

“The stakes are too high” to politicize this relationship, she says.

The Iran nuclear talks “have generated reasonable debate,” she says, mentioning it for the first time.

“The United States will not allow Iran to attain a nuclear weapon. Period,” she says, to much applause.

Power vows Obama will block Iran from bomb

Obama will keep Iran from the bomb, deal or no deal, Power says.

“Talks, no talks. Agreement, no agreement. The US will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our national security and that of our closest allies,” she says.

“We believes diplomacy is the secure route,” she says, but if it fails, the US is aware of the extent of the Iranian nuclear threat, if the talks fail.

“There will never be a sunset on America’s commitment to Israel’s security. Never.”

Power says US combating anti-Semitism

Power says the US is working to combat anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitic attacks are not a threat to the Jewish community, but to European pluralism” and values, she says.

“Criticism of Israel can never be used as a justification for incitement to violence,” she says.

Power criticizes the international community for failing to address and stand against anti-Jewish hatred.

Power condemns settlement activity

She mentions the UN resolution that declared that Zionism was a form of racism in 1975.

But says now they are drafting resolutions against anti-Semitism in those same halls, she says, including countries that voted in favor of the 1975 bill.

When 18 “biased resolutions” were proposed against Israel last September, “we opposed every one of them,” she says.

She lists several other examples, including resolutions that opposed Israel’s military action in Gaza without mentioning Hamas.

Power notes that more anti-Israel resolutions were cast than against North Korea. She mentions the US opposition to the Palestinian statehood bill at the Security Council.

The US supports peace talks and a two-state solution, she says.

She says “Israeli settlement activity damages the prospects for peace,” as do Palestinian unilateral measures in the UN.

Power says, ‘We believe in Israel’

“Confronting anti-Israel bias is a long nonpartisan” tradition for the US at the UN, she says.


She quotes President Johnson, “numbers do not determine what is right.”

“That was true in 1967, and that is true today,” she says.

“We believe in Israel,” she says. We believe in its democracy, and pluralism, she says.

“We believe the Jeiwsh people should always have a homeland that is safe and secure,” she says.

Power notes Israel’s involvement in assisting in global crises, such as the Ebola outbreak and the Haiti field hospital after the earthquake.

She says these are “modern day embodiments of tikkun olam.”

Power says US with Israel ‘through thick and thin’

Power concludes by saying that for Israel, too often the right to be treated equally, or to exist, has been questioned.

She says the US is with Israel “through thick and thin.”

Netanyahu takes the stage

The prime minister speaks. He receives much applause as he steps on stage.

Netanyahu says “wow,” and notes, “16,000 people.”

“You’re here in record numbers,” and “from coast to coast.” He says, “you’re here in a critical time.”

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to the AIPAC policy conference on March 2, 2015. (Screen capture: JLTV via YouTube)

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to the AIPAC policy conference on March 2, 2015. (Screen capture: JLTV via YouTube)

“You’re here to tell the world that reports of the demise of the US-Israel relations is not only premature, it’s just wrong!”

He says “our alliance is stronger than ever.”

The alliance “will get even stronger in the coming years.”

PM says Congress has Israel’s ‘boundless gratitude’

The PM thanks members of Congress for support of Israel “year in, year out.” Says they have “our boundless gratitude.”

He thanks the Czech president for attending.

PM thanks the ‘two Rons’

Netanyahu thanks “two Rons”: Israel’s UN envoy Ron Prosor and ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, “a man who knows how to take the heat.”

He thanks his wife Sara, “whose courage in the face of adversity is an inspiration to me.”

PM says he ‘deeply’ respects Obama

Calls Jerusalem “our eternal undivided capital.”

Says audience “may not have heard” that “I’ll be speaking in Congress tomorrow.”

Lots of applause and cheering follows.

“Never has so much been written about a speech that hasn’t been given,” he says.

PM says he won’t address content of the controversial  speech, but will address its purpose.

Says he means no disrespect to Obama or his office. “I have great respect for both,” he says.

Netanyahu says he “deeply appreciates” the US for its support.

‘Israel must remain bipartisan issue’

PM says support for Israel must remain bipartisan.

Both Democratic and Republican presidents have backed Israel, he says.

They made Israel the “first free trade partner 30 years ago, and first official strategic partner last year.”

Working together has made Israel and our alliance stronger, he says.

“The last thing I would want is that Israel would become a partisan issue.”

“Israel should always remain a bipartisan issue,” he says firmly.

PM says he has ‘moral obligation’ to speak out

He says the purpose of his Congress speech is the Iranian deal.

Iran is the “foremost state sponsor” of terror in the world, he says.

“This is what Iran is doing now without nuclear weapons. Imagine what would happen if it had nuclear weapons,” he says.

He says he has “a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them.”

For 2,000 years, Jews were defenseless. “Well, no more!” he declares.

“Those days are over,” he says. “Today in the sovereign state of Israel, we defend ourselves.”

In so doing, we ally with US, “to defend our common civilization against common threats.”

PM addresses disagreement between Israel, US

“Today we’re are no longer silent, Netanyahu continues. Today we have a voice. And tomorrow, as prime minister of the one and only Jewish state, I plan to use that voice.”

Iran “is threatening to destroy Israel, is devouring country after country in the Middle East… and is developing, as we speak,” the capability to build nuclear weapons, he says.

Disagreements among allies “are only natural,” because there are differences between US and Israel, he says. The US is large, while Israel is small; US lives in “one of the safest neighborhood”; US is strong, Israel is strong but vulnerable; US is concerned about security, Israel about survival, Netanyahu says.

He says that in the 9 years he was prime minister, there wasn’t one day he hasn’t thought about Israel’s survival. “Not one day.”

He says because of differences between US, Israel, there are disagreements.

PM says US-Israel ties will ‘weather’ spat

In the past, the US and Israel have had spats — in 1967, in attacking the Iraqi reactor, in 2002 during Operation Defensive Shield, he notes.

“Despite occasional disagreements, the friendship between America and Israel grew stronger and stronger, decade after decade,” he says.

He says the relationship will “weather” the current disagreement “because we share the same dream.”

PM says US, Israel ‘like a family’

PM says while the “medieval barbarity” erupts through the Middle East, Israel protects Christians and women are advancing.

“Israel is a beacon of humanity, of light, and of hope,” he says.

He says US and Israel are “like a family, practically a mishpocha.

“Our alliance is sound, our friendship is strong,” he concludes.

Standing ovation for PM

As Netanyahu ends his speech, he receives a standing ovation.

Michael Oren hopes PM ‘succeeds’ at Congress

Michael Oren, number 4 on the Kulanu party’s list of Knesset candidates, says it was not ideal for Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran, but now that it’s happening, he hopes the prime minister successfully makes his case on the Iranian nuclear program.

“It would have been better for Netanyahu not to speak before Congress and to prevent the current crisis with the US,” he writes on Facebook. “But as someone who participated in the most sensitive discussions about Iran, I know that we’re facing an existential threat. Therefore, even with all the criticism, it’s now in Israel’s national interest for Netanyahu to succeed in making his case.”

Still, Oren stresses that the housing crisis is as dire for the Israeli public as Iran.

“Israel derives its national strength from multiple sources. The threat that Israel faces when its citizens are unable to meet their monthly bills is no less dangerous than the threat that we face from Iran,” he adds. “Our sole focus on Iran has led a generation of Israelis to suffer from skyrocketing living costs, housing costs, and social gaps.”

Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren speaks in Tel Aviv on December 16, 2013. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren speaks in Tel Aviv on December 16, 2013. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

State spares home of Glick’s attempted killer

The government backtracks on its decision to demolish the home of the would-be assassin of Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick, opting instead to seal off his room, Haaretz reports.

The government decision to preserve the East Jerusalem residence of the family of Mu’taz Hijazi comes after the High Court demands additional legal explanations from the state.

Hijazi was killed by Israeli troops shortly after the attack on Glick in October 29. The government had initially requested that the home be destroyed as a deterrent to other terrorists, but the controversial move was delayed by the High Court.

Mu'taz Hijazi, in an undated photo. (photo credit: Flash90)

Mu’taz Hijazi, in an undated photo. (photo credit: Flash90)

Bennett predicts full house at Congress speech

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett tells Channel 2, “Tomorrow at Netanyahu’s speech, the hall will be full.”

Bennett is one of the only Israeli MKs to travel to Washington to speak at AIPAC, alongside Netanyahu.

Palestinians to file ICC complaint in April

The Palestinian Authority will lodge its first complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court in April, AFP reports.

White House denies it will curb aid

The White House denies it will curb US aid to Israel in response to a bitter fight over Netanyahu’s bid to scuttle negotiations with Iran.

As Netanyahu visits Washington to make the case against a looming deal with Tehran — Obama’s top foreign policy goal — the White House seeks to quell reports that vast US military aid could be cut as a result.

Israeli media has suggested the Obama administration could trim some of the roughly $100 billion in existing aid and drag its feet on requests for more help with defensive programs like the Magic Wand missile intercept systems and the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile.

“The report is false,” says Nation Security spokesperson Bernadette Meehan.


Yachimovich says ‘Bibi, go home’

Following Netanyahu’s AIPAC speech, the Zionist Union’s Shelly Yachimovich urges the prime minister to pack up and go home and call off tomorrow’s speech to Congress.

“Bibi, go home,” she writes on Facebook. “The AIPAC speech was acceptable and welcome.”

“Give up on the theatrical gestures, the punchlines, and go home. There is no doubt that it will serve our interests more than any bragging speech to Congress,” she continues. “Don’t let your narrow political interests damage the Israeli efforts to halt the Iranian nuclear program. Cancel your destructive speech to Congress, which may (or may not) save you from your crisis in the polls, but will harm the state.”

“In your speech you said you don’t want Israel to become a partisan issue in America, that there should be no political rift. That’s like cracking an egg over a frying pan, mixing it, turning on the fire, and saying you don’t want an omelet.”

Former Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovich on December 17, 2014 (Photo credit: Amir Levy/Flash90)

Former Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovich on December 17, 2014 (Photo credit: Amir Levy/Flash90)

Rights group protests IDF’s use of dogs

An Israeli human rights group criticizes the military’s use of dogs at protests, citing the case of a Palestinian teenager who was bitten after he threw rocks at troops in the West Bank.

Sarit Michaeli of B’tselem says the footage, broadcast today on Israeli media, was filmed in December. She says troops set the dog on a crowd of Palestinians throwing rocks and the animal bit the 16-year-old.

Michaeli says the youth was taken to hospital and later sentenced to over a year in prison for throwing rocks and a firebomb in separate incidents.

She says dogs are unnecessary as the military has other means to disperse Palestinian rock-throwers.

The Israeli military says it launched an inquiry into the incident and is taking measures to prevent it happening again.


Palestinians yell over spilled milk

As the Palestinian boycott of Israeli products takes hold, a video surfaces of Palestinians piling up milk bottles and spilling out their contents in the center of Ramallah.

Iran nuke talks resume

Negotiations on a potential Iran nuclear agreement resume in Switzerland, with Kerry saying the sides are still far apart.

Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif sit down in the Swiss resort town of Montreux on the Lake Geneva shoreline for their sixth round of discussions this year.

The Montreux talks are expected to last until Wednesday and will be underway when Netanyahu delivers his speech.


UN envoy chides world over Gaza aid

UN Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry criticizes the international community over the failure to deliver aid promised for reconstructing Gaza, on his final trip to the Palestinian enclave.

“Only a small percentage of the $5.4 billion pledged at the Cairo reconstruction conference (in October) has actually been disbursed. This is, frankly, unacceptable,” he says.

“I urgently call on all stakeholders, including… Palestinian factions, Israel, Egypt, the international community and donors, to change their failed policies and adopt a ‘Gaza first’ strategy.”

More than 100,000 homes remain damaged or destroyed from the war.

Serry, who is to end his term as peace envoy next month, says there was movement toward reconstruction, but that it is too slow.

“To date, over 72,000 people have been cleared to receive construction material… and around 55,000 have actually purchased material to rebuild their homes.”

But “many of those who now have access to building material lack the money to buy them or to carry out the works.”


Boehner to give PM bust of Churchill

House Speaker John Boehner plans to give Netanyahu a bust of Winston Churchill when he speaks to a joint meeting of Congress about the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The gift is chosen because Netanyahu and the former prime minister of Britain are the only foreign leaders who have addressed Congress three separate times.

Speaker of the US House of Representatives John Boehner (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in 2011 (Photo credit: YouTube screen capture)

Speaker of the US House of Representatives John Boehner (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in 2011 (Photo credit: YouTube screen capture)

Boehner also invites former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to the Congressional address on Tuesday.


Hamas rebuilding rocket arsenal in Gaza

A senior Hamas military official says the terror group which controls Gaza is rebuilding its heavily depleted rocket arsenal.

“Any regional or international attempt to lay siege to Hamas or its armed wing is bound to fail,” says Marwan Eissa, a commander of the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades armed wing.

Hamas was “not looking for confrontation” with Israel, he says, quoted by Hamas-run news agency Al-Ray.

“But we are making sure our forces are reinforced in case of a confrontation. We’re continuing to make rockets.”


PM to give Boehner menorah, megillah scroll

Netanyahu will give Boehner a menorah and scroll of the Book of Esther during a meeting before his Congress speech, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Earlier it was reported that Boehner will give Netanyahu a bust of Churchill as a gift.

Obama didn’t watch PM’s speech — White House

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says “he doesn’t believe” Obama watched Netanyahu’s AIPAC speech earlier.

Earnest, like Netanyahu, affirms the Israel-US ties, and says the relationship has been strengthened under Obama’s leadership.

Addressing Iran, Earnest says: “The United States has made clear that our foreign policy goal is to ensure that Iran does not obtain or acquire a nuclear weapon. That is our goal. It is my understanding that that is a goal shared by the Israeli political leadership as well.”

He is asked by a reporter whether Netanyahu’s visit is “historic,” as the prime minister has described it.

“I would allow the Israeli prime minister the prerogative of describing his trip however he wants, but what is clear is that the president is making decisions about our foreign policy, with the foreign policy interests of the United States at the forefront,” Earnest replies.

“The good news from Prime Minister Netanyahu is that in almost every situation, what’s good for the United States also happens to be good for Israel,” he adds.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on December 8, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on December 8, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Earnest says Obama has laid out “a clear strategy” to thwart Iran from obtaining weapons, but Netanyahu hasn’t. He says he’s not sure “even a military strategy” would “accomplish his goal, because it would require not just a detailed destruction of Iran’s infrastructure, but it also would require the removal of knowledge that Iran has already obtained.”

He says the likelihood of reaching a deal “is only at best, 50-50.”

“There are difficult decisions that need to be made by the Iranian government in terms of their willingness to sign on to this agreement, and this president has made clear he’s not going to sign onto a bad deal,” he says.

Earnest says there are still “significant gaps” and says whether the Iranian leadership will sign the deal is “the biggest X factor.”

Earnest also addresses Shmuley Boteach’s New York Times ad against Susan Rice, calling it a “despicable attack.”

He says he was “gratified” to see Netanyahu’s condemnation of the ad.

White House ‘doubts’ Obama will watch Congress speech

Earnest is asked about whether President Obama will watch Netanyahu’s address to Congress tomorrow.

“I haven’t looked at the president’s schedule for tomorrow, I doubt that he will spend his whole time watching the speech,” he replies.

Earnest says he does not believe Netanyahu’s opposition to the deal “will have much of impact on the ultimate outcome.”

He says leaks to the Israeli media on the Iranian talks by unnamed Israeli officials “is inconsistent with the behavior of trusted allies.”

No immediate ‘substantial’ sanctions relief for Iran

Earnest says the administration “does not envision a scenario where substantial sanctions relief is offered right away,” as part of a final nuclear deal with Tehran.

“The United States is going to expect Iran to demonstrate over a period of time compliance with this agreement before offering substantial sanctions relief,” he says.

MK says security chiefs should have stopped PM

MK Yaakov Perry of Yesh Atid, formerly the head of the Shin Bet, criticizes the heads of Israel’s intelligence agencies for failing to prevent Netanyahu’s trip to Washington and address to Congress.

He says at least one senior security official tried to stop Netanyahu, but to no avail.

“I regret that in the past security chiefs were able to prevent moves that were not good for Israel, and in this case did not succeed,” he says, according to the Walla news website.

Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

US stops intelligence sharing over speech — reports

Channel 10 reports that the US has “entirely stopped” sharing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program with Israel, amid tensions over Netanyahu’s Congress speech.

Israel is still working with other countries, it notes, adding that the information gathered by these countries often helps the IAEA compile its reports on the Iranian nuclear program.

Yadlin says PM’s AIPAC speech ‘an apology’

The Zionist Union’s candidate for defense minister, Amos Yadlin, tells Haaretz that Netanyahu’s AIPAC address, in which he hailed the US-Israel alliance, was an apology for damaging ties.

“The prime minister spoke fantastic English and the audience loved him and loved what he said,” Yadlin says. “But the significance of what he said is that the prime minister is well aware of the damage that he caused to our relations with the administration and that he is perceived here as cooperating with only one political party, and thus hurting the critically important bipartisan support for Israel. In essence, he apologized for these things.”

Amos Yadlin (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90.)

Amos Yadlin (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90.)

Bomb kills one person in Cairo

A midday bomb blast in a boulevard in downtown Cairo kills one person and wounds 10, the health ministry says.

Shortly afterward, a little-known group claims responsibility for the attack.

The bomb is hidden under a car parked near the High Court — the country’s highest criminal court — and goes off in Cairo’s Ramses neighborhood. The area is very crowded, with dozens of street vendors selling their ware on stalls set up on the asphalt. Nearby are several bus stops, a railway station and a subway station.

Egyptian private The Seventh Day TV broadcasts footage of the site, showing hundreds of onlookers around cars with smashed windows and blood on the pavement. Police cordone off the area and state TV later report that a second bomb was dismantled before it went off.

The Interior Ministry and the Health Ministry earlier had said no one was killed, despite a previous state TV report mentioning that one person died. The wounded include seven policemen, the health ministry says.

A group calling itself “Revolutionary Punishment” claims responsibility on its Twitter account for Monday’s attack, saying they targeted a police checkpoint. The group is believed to mostly consist of Islamist youths seeking revenge for the ongoing crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.


Americans still view PM favorably — polls

Despite controversy over Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, more Americans view him favorably than unfavorably, according to two separate polls.

Nearly twice as many Americans view Netanyahu favorably, 45 percent, as unfavorably, 24 percent, according to a Gallup poll taken February 8-11 — after Netanyahu had accepted the invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to speak and angered the Obama administration.

Gallup notes that Netanyahu’s favorability rating among Americans is up from 35 percent in 2012 and “ties his highest rating among the six times Gallup has measured it, spanning his three tenures as prime minister.”

A Pew Research Center poll of Americans conducted February 18-22 also finds more favorable than unfavorable opinion concerning Netanyahu, but with a smaller gap. It reports that 38 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Netanyahu, while 27 percent have an unfavorable view and 35 percent have no opinion.

Both polls note a partisan gap in views of Netanyahu, with Republicans much more likely than Democrats to view the prime minister positively. Gallup found 60 percent of self-identified Republicans holding favorable views of Netanyahu compared to 31 percent of Democrats. An equal percentage of Democrats, 31 percent, had unfavorable views of Netanyahu, compared to only 18 percent of Republicans with unfavorable views.

The Pew poll finds 53 percent of Republicans viewing Netanyahu favorably and 21 percent viewing him unfavorably, compared to 28 percent of Democrats with favorable and 35 percent with unfavorable views.

Neither study finds changes in American support for Israel, however.

Gallup notes that attitudes about Israel and the Palestinians “are unchanged from a year ago, suggesting that neither the evident friction between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor the 50-day conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last year, greatly affected how each is perceived in the US.”

Sixty-two percent of Americans say in the recent poll that they sympathize more with the Israelis, Gallup reports, while 16 percent say they sympathize more with the Palestinians. The 2014 findings were virtually identical.

The Pew study notes that 48 percent of Americans say the level of US support for Israel was “about right,” 29 percent say the United States was not supportive enough and 18 percent say the US was too supportive of Israel. In a 2012 Pew poll, 51 percent said US support for Israel was about right, while 25 percent said it was not supportive enough and 22 percent said it was too supportive.


Obama’s interview to be released in an hour

Obama’s interview with Reuters, in which he is expected to address the Iranian nuclear talks and Netanyahu’s visit, will be released in an hour.

Chart of US aid to Israel since 1949

Reuters releases a chart of US aid to Israel, listed in billions of dollars, from 1949-the present.

The amount has climbed since Obama took office.

AIPAC’s exclusive ‘Minyan Club’

In Bloomberg, Eli Lake reports that the VIP “Minyan Club” at the AIPAC policy forum, who are granted the coveted maroon lanyards, are those who have contributed over $100,000 to the pro-Israel group in the past year.

“Minyan club members don’t wait in line anywhere. Like Henry Hill in Goodfellas at the Copa, they’re ushered in past the metal detectors and shown to the front of the room as soon as they arrive. On Sunday night, the Minyan Club was invited to a lavish off-site dinner at the Polish embassy. For the annual dinner, Minyan Club members have the tables closest to the stage,” he writes.

“On the ground floor of AIPAC village, a massive room with different kiosks connected by a relief of a very Israeli-looking limestone facade, is also a special Minyan Club lounge. Now, the AIPAC village has many lounges: the regular concession where thousands of white lanyard shnooks line up to plunk down $14.50 for a soggy sandwich and a canned soda, or the Senate Club lounge where one can relax in cushy chairs and eat complimentary granola bars. But the Minyan Club lounge is first class all the way — fine wines, French-style rack of lamb, and six flat-screen televisions carrying the proceedings.”

Read the full report here.

State Dept. warns Israel not to ‘betray’ US

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf says leaks on the Iran nuke talks by Israel would “betray” the US’s trust.

“We’ve continuously provided detailed classified briefings to Israeli officials to keep them updated and to provide context for how we are approaching getting to a good deal,” she told reporters in Washington.

US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf (screen capture: Youtube)

US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf (screen capture: Youtube)

“Any release of any kind of information like that would, of course, betray that trust.”

AFP, Times of Israel staff

PM needs new ‘explosive’ angle’ – analyst

Mark Heller, a political analyst at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, says that after years of warning about the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, it is hard to imagine what new angle Netanyahu will pursue on Tuesday.

“He’s been over this ground before many times and… if he doesn’t come up with something truly explosive it’s going to be a big letdown,” he tells AFP.

“I think he’s going to have to pull some kind of rabbit out of the hat and reveal some information that’s not out there in the public domain.”


Netanyahu’s schedule for today

The prime minister will meet with House Speaker John Boehner, who will give him a bust of Winston Churchill as a gift (since Churchill and Netanyahu are the only two world leaders to address a joint session three times). Netanyahu, in return, will give Boehner a copy of the scroll of the Purim story and a menorah.

At 11 a.m. (6 p.m. Israel time), Netanyahu will address Congress. The speech will be screened live, and a video will be embedded at the top of this blog. Tune in!

Ahead of the speech, Boehner put together a welcome video for Netanyahu.

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Live updates (now closed) Latest: State Dept. warns Israel not to ‘betray’ US

US stops intelligence sharing over speech — reports

Channel 10 reports that the US has “entirely stopped” sharing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program with Israel, amid tensions over Netanyahu’s Congress speech.

Israel is still working with other countries, it notes, adding that the information gathered by these countries often helps the IAEA compile its reports on the Iranian nuclear program.