Kerry leaves for Geneva; Netanyahu talks tough on Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters after his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters after his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
(Debbie Hill / AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM -- U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s latest Mideast visit appeared to end in discord for Israel on the twin issues on the agenda, Israeli-Palestinian talks and Iran’s nuclear program.

As Kerry left Israel for Geneva to help in negotiations with Iran, he made no concluding announcement on his series of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. According to Israeli media, Kerry canceled a planned joint statement to avoid clashing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in public.

Kerry apparently said all he was going to say Friday in a private, two-hour meeting with Netanyahu at Ben-Gurion Airport that was added to the original schedule.


But heading into the meeting, Netanyahu talked tough as he delivered a statement reflecting displeasure at an emerging agreement between Iran and six world powers in Geneva, as well as differences with the U.S on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“I understand the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva, as well they should be,” said Netanyahu, visibly angered. “Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal,” Netanyahu said. He added that Israel “is not obliged by this agreement” and that it will do “everything it needs to defend itself and defend the security of its people.”

After the meeting, Netanyahu said he had urged Kerry “not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider and get a good deal.”

Although Kerry departed with no statement on his efforts to revitalize Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, he made his positions clear in a television interview Thursday.

He warned Israelis against indifference and cautioned Israel that the price of failure could deliver violence at their doorstep and result in a third Palestinian uprising.

Kerry also took Israel’s ongoing settlement-expansion efforts to task. “Let me ask you something ... if you say you’re working for peace ... how can you say we’re building in that place that will eventually be Palestine?” Kerry asked, and answered: “So it sends a message that somehow perhaps you’re not really serious.”


The format of the interview, given to a pair of Israeli and Palestinian journalists for broadcast on television outlets serving both groups, was no less of a statement.

Israeli officials reportedly did not appreciate parts of the interview, described by one media outlet as a “heavy slap in Netanyahu’s face.” In a radio interview Friday, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said Kerry’s tone “carried a concealed threat that Israel would be punished if we do not reach an agreement.”

Netanyahu’s comments Friday morning appeared to reflect the same feeling.

The same adamant stand on Israeli security regarding Iran is true for the negotiations with the Palestinians, the prime minister said, stressing he would resist “any international pressure.”

Pressure on Israel was misplaced, Netanyahu said. “The pressure has to be put where it belongs, on the Palestinians who refuse to budge. ... No amount of pressure will make me or the government of Israel compromise on the basic security or national interests of Israel.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, head of Israel’s peace negotiating team, took a different view. “Israel matters to Kerry, and he believes a peace agreement is critical to its security,” Livni said.

Kerry had spoken “from his heart,” she added.

From Israel, Kerry headed to Geneva to help narrow differences in the Iran negotiations at the request of European Union policy chief Catherine Ashton, according to a tweet from State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.



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