President Shimon Peres warned against the escalating tensions between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government over the past week surrounding the Geneva deal on the Iranian nuclear program and, on a lower scale, announcements of planned settlement construction in the West Bank.
“Our relationship… is fundamental, not simple, not to be taken for granted,” Peres said in remarks Thursday at an award ceremony for the David Ben-Gurion Prize.
“There has not been an Israeli request which the Obama administration has not responded to, including casting a veto over the UN Security Council resolution on settlements [in 2011] despite the fact that the US does not consider the settlements legal. Nearly all our security requests were responded to positively,” Peres noted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several senior Israeli officials openly sparred with the US this week, issuing tit-for-tat remarks over differences surrounding the deal proposed by world powers to Iran in Geneva last weekend, and the approach to increase sanctions.
“My friends, we must not underestimate the importance of this friendship [between Israel and the US]” Peres tried to soothe. “There can be disagreements, but they must be conducted with a view to the true depth of the situation. If we have disagreements we should voice them but we should remember that the Americans also know a thing or two, we are not the only ones.”
Peres’s last line seemed to reference statements made by US Secretary of State John Kerry this week that the US was neither “blind” nor “stupid” when it came to Iran. Kerry also directly addressed Netanyahu’s bitter criticism of the emerging deal in Geneva, saying he wasn’t sure the prime minister knew all the terms of the deal. Netanyahu promptly retorted that he was “continuously updated in detail.”
“The relations between us have a deep history,” Peres warned, “President [Harry] Truman recognized Israel 11 minutes after the declaration of independence. The support of the United States for Israel is unique. We are fortunate that America was, and remains, our friend and ally.”
Netanyahu has vehemently opposed the “bad deal” with Iran, demanding more sanctions on the Islamic Republic and warning that should the agreement be signed, it could lead to war. Earlier in the week, the White House also warned of the dangers of war with Iran — should Congress vote for new sanctions on Tehran.
With nuclear negotiations set to resume in Switzerland next week, Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett was dispatched to the US Wednesday to campaign against the deal. He spoke at the Brookings Institute in the capital, hours after US President Barack Obama stumped across town against new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The Obama administration dispatched Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden to Congress on Wednesday to seek more time for diplomacy. They faced skepticism from members of Congress determined to further squeeze the Iranian economy and wary of yielding any ground to Iran in the talks.
Kerry, who briefed lawmakers on the most recent negotiations with Iran, said that Iran would likely view any new US sanctions as a “bad faith” move in the talks and would embolden hard-liners in Tehran who do not want Iran to surrender any nuclear capabilities. Iran insists its program is being developed for peaceful purposes.
Nuclear talks between the P5+1 powers and Iran are set to resume in Geneva on November 20.