Obama rejecting calls from Netanyahu amid tension over Iran

Barak Ravid — Haaretz Nov 17, 2013

Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida reported Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama has been refusing to take phone calls from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because of the tension between the two countries over how to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a flat denial, saying, “The report in Al Jarida is wrong.”

The White House also denied the reports.

Al Jarida, which has previously reported information that was later verified about a leak investigation taking place in Netanyahu’s bureau, says that on Friday, Obama refused more than once to speak to Netanyahu on the telephone and had U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry take the call instead. The paper cited a source it says is familiar with the issue.

According to the report, which was written by a reporter in Jerusalem, U.S. Jewish leaders are trying to get the White House to decrease the tension and snag Netanyahu an invitation to meet with Obama in Washington.

The Kuwaiti paper’s exclusive reports on what’s going on behind the scenes of the Prime Minister’s Office have raised the question of whether Netanyahu’s bureau is intentionally using the paper to release information to which it doesn’t want to be directly linked.

Netanyahu and Obama last spoke on Friday, November 8, during the last round of talks in Geneva. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote Saturday that the conversation lasted at least 90 minutes.

Obama contacted Netanyahu after the prime minister expressed opposition to the agreement underway with Iran, which Netanyahu has since called a “bad deal” that means “Iran is getting everything and giving nothing.”

Later in the morning of November 8, Netanyahu met with Kerry at Ben-Gurion International Airport. The atmosphere was tense and the conversation did nothing to mitigate Netanyahu’s staunch, and publicly expressed, opposition to the deal.

The most recent round of negotiations between Iran and the international community in Geneva have been in the center of tensions between the United States and Israel, who differ over the best course to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program.

Netanyahu and his ministers believe, in stark contrast to the Americans and some of the other negotiating powers, that it’s possible to extract a much better agreement from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, one that will totally halt uranium enrichment at all levels and shut down the centrifuges. They argue that if forced to choose between acquiring an atomic bomb and the survival of his regime – and the economic crisis puts the ayatollahs’ regime in real danger – Khamenei would choose survival. But so far the West has succeeded in extracting very little from him.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that no agreement with Iran has been reached and that opposition to a deal was premature.


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