Israeli, U.S. national security advisers meet amid tensions

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Israeli and American national security advisers met amid tensions between the two countries as the top U.S. negotiator joined a new round of nuclear talks with Iran.

Susan Rice and Yossi Cohen met Thursday at the White House, Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman said in a statement.


“They discussed a range of issues of mutual concern, including Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship, and Israeli-Palestinian relations,” Meehan said in a statement. “The national security advisors agreed to continue close consultations on these and other issues.”

The meeting comes after weeks of tension between the two governments and efforts on both sides to issue reassurances that close consultations continue nonetheless.

The Obama administration is angry that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pressing ahead with a speech to Congress March 3. Netanyahu arranged the speech with congressional Republican leaders without informing the White House.

Obama administration officials have also accused Netanyahu’s government of leaking selectively from updates they have received from U.S. negotiators about the Iran nuclear talks. The officials have suggested that as a result U.S. negotiators will be more circumspect in what they share with Israel about the talks.

Netanyahu says he believes the talks are headed for a bad deal and he plans to speak against them to Congress.

Meanwhile, Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state leading Iran talks, met Thursday in Geneva with her Iranian counterparts ahead of a broader round of talks between Iran and the major powers.

Negotiators have set a March 24 deadline for an outline of an agreement that would swap sanctions relief for guarantees that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon.