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White House suggests Israel is lying about Iran talks– as Obama officials shun Netanyahu

on 40 Comments

Oh what a night. The divide between the U.S. and Israel just gets wider and wider. The White House and the State Department yesterday said openly that the Obama administration is restricting the information it gives to Israel about the Iran talks because Israel is misrepresenting the talks in its efforts to derail them. There is “no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate,” the White House press secretary says.

A friend asks, Has the US ever publicly stated that an ally was a liar? AP’s Matt Lee, who said at State yesterday that the Obama administration is saying that Israel is “lying,” calls the statements “extraordinary” in his article:

In extraordinary admissions that reflect increasingly strained ties between the U.S. and Israel, the White House and State Department said they were not sharing everything from the negotiations with the Israelis and complained that Israeli officials had misrepresented what they had been told in the past. Meanwhile, senior U.S. officials privately blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself for “changing the dynamic” of previously robust information-sharing by politicizing it.

And meantime, it turns out from the State Department briefing that no one is going to be around to meet Netanyahu when he comes to town to give his March 3 speech. The president won’t meet him. The VP won’t meet him. And now the Secretary of State will be out of town.

Let’s go to the record. From Josh Earnest’s press briefing yesterday at the White House: We’re going to continue to consult with Israel about the Iran talks, but.

 we’ve also been very clear about the fact that the United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, and particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.  So there is an obligation when you’re participating in these kinds of negotiations to ensure that those consultations and that those negotiations are carried out in good faith.  And that means giving negotiators the room and the space to negotiate.

Q    So you are consulting, but you are worried about cherry picking?  So does that still limit the information that you provide during those consultations?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, I obviously am not going to be able to get into the details of those conversations, I think for obvious reasons, but I think it is fair to say that the United States is mindful of the need to not negotiate in public and ensure that information that’s discussed at the negotiating table is not taken out of context and publicized in a way that distorts a negotiating position of the United States and our allies.

Q    And you think that distortion and cherry picking has occurred — has been done by the Israelis?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate.  There’s no question about that.

The State Department briefing yesterday reflects the new cherrypicking reality. The spokesperson is Jen Psaki (who today is reported to be going over to the White House to lead the communications team there).

QUESTION: I understand that you share a great deal, but you’re saying that you don’t share everything. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So you are withholding some details.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So can you say if this – is this a new thing? Has this been in place, this decision been around since the beginning?

MS. PSAKI: We have long taken steps to ensure that these negotiations remain private….

QUESTION: Okay. Your colleague at the White House, when asked the same kind of questions that I’m asking right now, said that there was a – the Administration had a problem with people – he didn’t identify them – but cherry picking specific bits of information —

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: — and releasing them. Can you say —

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli Government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that the Israeli Government is lying about the talks. Is that correct? Or they’ve been misinformed because maybe you haven’t been telling them everything?

MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a selective sharing of information, Matt.

Notice Psaki doesn’t say Matt Lee is wrong when he says, lying.

Then this back and forth about Secretary of State John Kerry traveling when the Israel lobby AIPAC has its conference in DC. So is everyone fleeing Washington when Netanyahu comes to town?

QUESTION: I was looking through the list of confirmed speakers at the AiPAC conference… And I – so far I didn’t see any indication that the Secretary may be addressing the conference. Is there any plan to? I know in the past he has, or a Secretary has.

MS. PSAKI: He has in the past. I expect we certainly will have representation. I don’t think we’re at a point of announcing who that will be yet.

QUESTION: If the Secretary doesn’t actually take part, is this because of the circumstances surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, which, of course, have been really overtaken by the fact that he’s going to address Congress on March 3rd?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve already been clear that we don’t have to plan – we don’t have plans, I should say, to have a meeting. I think the more likely reason is that the Secretary is probably going to be out of town, which I don’t think surprises any of you, given his overseas travel schedule. We’re still working out the next couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Wait, the Secretary is probably going to be out of town when?… For the entire AiPAC conference?

MS. PSAKI: It’s only a couple of days, Matt. We have a trip we’re working on for early-March, late-February. So —

QUESTION: That’s funny, because the Vice President also had some unspecified travel plans that would prevent him from being at Congress to hear the prime minister’s speech.

MS. PSAKI: Well, given I think —

QUESTION: Is everyone fleeing —

MS. PSAKI: — we have all spent days if not months on a plane, I don’t think it should surprise anyone that the chief diplomat might be overseas.

QUESTION: Well, right, but – yeah. But it just seems to be a little unusual that both the Secretary of State and the Vice President are – have determined right now that they’re going to be out of town or out of the country. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t look at it in those terms. I believe the Vice President’s attending the inauguration for the new Government of Panama, I believe…

QUESTION: So it wouldn’t be seen – it shouldn’t be seeing it as a snub because the prime minister will be addressing the same conference?

MS. PSAKI: I think, again, the Secretary of State never speaks at this every single year. We’ll – I expect we’ll have a representation there. I would leave it at that.

QUESTION: I just remember being with the Secretary at the inauguration of the Panamanian prime minister a few months ago.

MS. PSAKI: Perhaps that’s not the right information. I’m sure you can check the Vice President’s schedule on his website.

QUESTION: Might you invent a country that he could go to if there isn’t any – (laughter) —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think inaugurations for new leaders are invented, Matt.

At Peace Now, Yossi Alpher says that the Netanyahu speech has inflicted serious damage on the US Israel relationship, but Netanyahu’s game is bigger than the Obama administration. He seems tough to the Israeli electorate. And

Netanyahu knows that Israelis place high value on the US-Israel relationship as a pillar of Israeli security. But he apparently believes he can persuade voters that the “real” America, as represented by Republicans, evangelicals, and AIPAC, is behind him and waiting for him to lead the campaign against a bad agreement with Iran.

Indeed, it appears that the Republican leadership and financial backers of both the Republicans and Netanyahu, like Sheldon Adelson, are by now somehow counting on Netanyahu to represent their position negating an Iran deal. In this sense, Netanyahu’s insistence on going through with the speech represents not only his message to Israeli voters but his close Republican political and financial links.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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40 Responses

  1. annie on February 19, 2015, 11:01 am

    MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t look at it in those terms. I believe the Vice President’s attending the inauguration for the new Government of Panama, I believe…


    QUESTION: I just remember being with the Secretary at the inauguration of the Panamanian prime minister a few months ago.

    MS. PSAKI: Perhaps that’s not the right information. I’m sure you can check the Vice President’s schedule on his website.

    QUESTION: Might you invent a country that he could go to if there isn’t any – (laughter) —

    that’s so funny!

    • CloakAndDagger on February 19, 2015, 11:17 am

      Oh, I so hope this falling out is permanent!

      • annie on February 19, 2015, 11:21 am

        if there’s a rapprochement with iran (please please please oh lord) you better believe it won’t go silently into the night by israel. for at least until the end of obama’s presidency things will be very chilly. and that’s just enough time to really throw a wrench into the next election cycle in terms of congresspeople putting their cards on the table either for what’s best for america and against the lobby, or the other way around. so exciting.

      • CloakAndDagger on February 19, 2015, 11:29 am

        @ annie

        From your lips to God’s ears…

      • Walid on February 19, 2015, 11:38 am

        “if there’s a rapprochement with iran (please please please oh lord) you better believe it won’t go silently into the night by israel. (Annie)

        Annie, after a 30-year embargo on Iran, once this is lifted, there will be tens and and tens of billions’ worth of business to be made with Iran and the US is not about to pass on them for Israel’s blue eyes. The rest of the world is just as interested as Iran at seeing an Iran (with the world’s largest natural gas deposits) open for business. Israel is a bottomless pit as far as US aid is concerned. What does the US get back from Israel other than wars and spying on Americans?

      • just on February 19, 2015, 11:41 am

        Bingo, Walid.

        It really has not been smart of the US to maintain the status quo wrt Iran. Normalization is in the best interests of both nations.

      • Citizen on February 19, 2015, 3:14 pm

        The international money bankers, including the Federal Reserve folks, cannot be happy with Iran’s circumventing the almighty petro dollar, especially with China & India looking at this closely.

    • steven l on February 20, 2015, 4:45 pm

      Let us be honest: the Chief deceiver is the President of the USA!

  2. just on February 19, 2015, 11:12 am

    A fresh breeze is blowing! There’s more than one deep freeze occurring in DC~ hurrah. I wonder if Earnest and Psaki have to rehearse in front of a mirror while pinching themselves since this is a brand new narrative for them.

    I just listened to Mr. Obama’s speech at the State Department. He still threw out too many bones to “Israel” and “terror”. One day I hope to hear a US President address the terrorism that Israel has perpetrated and continues to this very minute.

    • annie on February 19, 2015, 11:16 am

      i just love this! obama called their bluff. israel took a stab in the dark and started floating rumors by spicing it with just enough possible truth to require a denial, response or that it be addressed daring the WH. grist for israel’s mill! building the narrative in order to double down and use whatever specifics arising from the denials to present as fodder for netanyahu’s upcoming speech and to drown out the loud roars of discontent emanating from all quarters over that speech.

      and low and behold the WH comes out and suggests israel is lying. i so love this.

      • just on February 19, 2015, 11:37 am

        Me, too!

        What’s so bracing and refreshing is that on 2/17/2015 Prosor said:

        ““The problem is that the Iranians, until now, have lied consecutively for years. They’ve taken–they’re amazing negotiators. They’re not just carpet makers, they’re carpet weavers. They take every red line, they divide it into pink lines, and they press every pink line,” said Prosor.”

        Yesterday, 2/18/2015, the WH and State Department say that Israel is the liar, a leaker and untrustworthy. And MW is on top of all of it.

      • John O on February 19, 2015, 12:11 pm

        People are apt to forget that Obama is a keen poker player, good at the long game.

      • gracie fr on February 19, 2015, 1:36 pm

        It would seem to me that Obama and Co. have played this poker hand well!! The White House, Pentagon and State Department know what they know about ongoing negotiations with Iran and have purposely left Netanyahu out on a limb to fill in the blanks with only products and insinuations of his twisted imagination. Israel’s Icarus’s wings seem to be melting. Let’s hope for a condemning “gotch’ya” moment and an embarrassing crash landing in front of the toadies present in a half empty Congress…..

      • steven l on February 20, 2015, 4:48 pm

        Blissfully arrogant and BIASED.

    • ckg on February 19, 2015, 12:50 pm

      the terrorism that Israel has perpetrated

      On Monday Salon published a Chomsky interview in which he calls Israel a US “terrorist client” which is “strategically located, compliant, does what the US wants, it’s available for repression and violence. The US has used it over and over as a way of circumventing congressional and popular restrictions on violence.” Right now the interview is the second most read article on the Salon site.

      • Atlantaiconoclast on February 19, 2015, 1:42 pm

        IMO, that is Chomsky doing his usual deflection. Its not Israel that is the problem in his mind, but the wicked US. Well I have news for Chomsky. Israel has quite a lot of power in DC, and it was the dual citizen Jewish and Christian neocons, not the foreign policy realists, who have driven foreign policy since the Clinton years. Chomsky makes it safe to criticize our foreign policy on Israel, without identifying one of the true architects of our foreign policy: the Israel firster neocon establishment. Even Obama surrounded himself with neocons. What in the world is Victoria Nuland doing working in an Obama State Dept? Her husband is Robert Kagan for goodness sake. I wish I could be as optimistic about Obama changing policy as some of you are.

      • just on February 19, 2015, 5:13 pm

        Thank you, ckg. That’s one heck of an interview~ wow!

        Prof Chomsky still has many more marbles than almost anyone I know of.

    • on February 19, 2015, 6:32 pm

      You can bet that the Chinese and the Russians aren’t missing out on trade with Iran.

      American business would love to work with Iran.

      We need to cut that petulant little child called Israel loose.

  3. JLewisDickerson on February 19, 2015, 11:35 am

    RE: “And meantime, it turns out from the State Department briefing that no one is going to be around to meet Netanyahu when he comes to town to give his March 3 speech.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Good news, if y’all are ready to rumble. These guys WILL be around. They’ll be in Washington to support Netanyahu’s visit, and to light the fuse of the “revolution to take back Christian America”! I do so hope Netanyahu will find time in his busy schedule to meet with them! ! ! –


  4. joemowrey on February 19, 2015, 11:42 am

    The irony never ends. The U.S. accusing Israel (or any other country for that matter) of lying? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Before we rejoice too much about this latest play on the part of the Obama administration, just remember that Obama and his gang of thugs are world class liars themselves and pretty much everything out of their mouths about Iran is a lie or a twisting of the truth.

    • jenin on February 19, 2015, 3:49 pm

      I think your comment misses the point. The point is not whether Obama has lied — which he certainly has — but that he has been willing to say that Israeli is lying. To my knowledge, no other US president or congressperson (that was able to get reelected, anyway!) has said such a thing, so I think it’s significant. Aside from the fact the Obama administration has a lot of blood on its hands.

    • justicewillprevail on February 19, 2015, 3:59 pm

      Whatever they are, they are nowhere near the constant stream of grotesque lies and diversions that Israel has been proclaiming for decades. And they have a much more realistic view of Iran, whatever the hysterical manipulative jeremiads, the whining and bullying, the transparent attempts at fomenting an entirely unnecessary war nobody wants except the thugs, as you call them, in the Knesset. The US is not in the same league as the compulsive liars and fabricators of Israel, who have got away with it for years. It is about time they were called out for it. Everyone who is familiar with their practices is sick of it, and their arrogant assumption that they pull the strings while the US dances.

    • Keith on February 19, 2015, 4:13 pm

      JOEMOWREY- “Before we rejoice too much about this latest play on the part of the Obama administration….”

      Indeed, Joe, this may be yet again another “good cop, bad cop” performance. The notion that the Obama administration is not attempting to destabilize Iran is preposterous. Anytime the US wants to establish a nuclear weapons free Middle East, all it has to do is agree with the UN proposal which Iran supports, and then figure out how to get Israel to go along. Actually, the US has been in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for quite some time, upgrading its nuclear arsenal rather than eliminate nuclear weapons as the treaty requires and which human survival depends upon.

  5. eGuard on February 19, 2015, 12:08 pm

    Apart from Israel cherrytomatopicking and lying, there is also this: not negotiate in public and ensure that information … is not … publicized.

    So Israel is publicizing secret information. Yes this was reported before, but it is amazing still.

    • ckg on February 19, 2015, 1:02 pm

      And we all know what this administration thinks about unauthorized leaks of secret information.

  6. snowdrift on February 19, 2015, 12:10 pm

    Hahaha! At this point I want a Bibi bumper sticker. In a matter of months he has done what pro-Palestinians would have taken years to achieve: make the US government acknowledge that Israel isn’t its BFF and doesn’t necessarily have American interests at heart, and, most impressive of all, turn Israel into a contentious issue in Congress! I don’t know how long it’ll last, but watching the US Zionist apparatus trembling on its foundations is very enjoyable. And the Republicans keep on pushing!

    BIBI 2015 The Own Goal Campaign

  7. Marnie on February 19, 2015, 12:33 pm

    Could it be in the near future the US will finally be through with this bad roomance? And if this miracle can happen, then Americans will be free of toting of the ball and chain that is the price of a “special relationship” with Israel or any other country. Hallelujah!

  8. HarryLaw on February 19, 2015, 1:14 pm

    There is one thing the US [Masters of the Universe] fear more than anything, and that is to be laughed at. Ms Psaki your doing a great job, you have missed your vocation, stand up comedian.

  9. Boomer on February 19, 2015, 2:14 pm

    The NYT tells us that some people are saying that Mr. Obama is weak and avoiding the issue because he doesn’t focus on the problems with Islam. And the Atlantic tells us that ISIS is motivated by Islamic fervor. I wonder, is this part of the preparation for Mr. Nuttinyahoo’s visit?

    • amigo on February 19, 2015, 3:09 pm

      “Self-deception is not a good idea in politics or international affairs. We’re lying to ourselves, and the world knows it.”Peter Lehner.

      But we are not lying to ourselves insisting that there is still a possibility of a 2SS or that Israeli is interested in one.

      Do these people really believe the prattle they put out.

    • Kay24 on February 19, 2015, 11:04 pm

      Obama is not weak, he is at least standing up to a trouble maker, Netanyahu, who has, from the start, tried to derail the peace talks with Iran, and sabotage Obamas efforts to avoid a war, and end this peacefully.


      “The National Iranian American Council took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times slamming the planned speech to Congress by Israel’s prime minister.

      “Will Congress side with our president or a foreign leader?” reads the ad in Thursday’s edition. “President Obama is on the verge of a diplomatic victory that will prevent war and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. But Congressional hawks are bringing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to Capitol Hill to push for new sanctions that could kill the talks and start a war.”

      In the ad, a figure identified as House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner fills out a mock multiple-choice quiz, choosing Benjamin Netanyahu over Obama on the question “Who is our Commander in Chief?”

      The ad’s publication comes amid reports that the White House has been keeping Jerusalem in the dark about certain details of U.S.-Iranian negotiations in order to avoid giving the Israelis fodder with which to inveigh against a potential nuclear deal.

      “There’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “We see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

      Netanyahu has warned against the perils of dealmaking with Iran and plans to visit Washington to make his argument in a speech to Congress on March 3, two weeks before Israeli elections. The speech has been the subject of much controversy. It was planned by Netanyahu administration officials and Boehner without the White House’s knowledge, and Obama was informed about it only hours before it was publicly announced.

      Several prominent Democrats have announced that they will not attend the speech, Obama has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during his visit because of the proximity to Israeli elections, and some prominent American Jews and Jewish groups have urged the prime minister to cancel. In Israel, Netanyahu has come under fire for what critics say is his antagonizing of the U.S. administration”

      I applaud this effort by the National Iranian American Council.

  10. Citizen on February 19, 2015, 3:24 pm

    I watch Fox News, like ANY good American. Nothing said on this blog is being conveyed to the US public.

  11. retired on February 19, 2015, 7:15 pm

    “We know that Tehran knows the details of the talks. Now I tell you that Israel also knows the details of the proposed agreement,” Netanyahu said.

    Now this is Netanyahu’s original speech, as originally quoted and discussed in the Jerusalem Post. Just what is meant by “Israel also knows the details of the proposed agreement”? Just Bibi braggadocio? Or Bibi calculation for Israeli politics? Or maybe even, the stone
    truth of the presence of an unknown, but very large number of Israeli moles, spies, and quislings right in the US Govt., in a position to “know the details of the proposed agreement?”

    It would be so like the blustering, heedless Bibi to inadvertently speak the truth!

    • Kay24 on February 20, 2015, 1:13 am

      It should not surprise anyone that Israel has in it’s pay, Israeli firsters, who will betray their President, and spill the beans little by little. Remember, when the USS Liberty was bombed, there were such traitors around LBJ, who kept Israel informed of everything that was going around LBJ. It must be worse now, with all those contraptions to eavesdrop, listen, and betray.

      Phillip Weis article on MDW:

      Devious, dangerous, and even deadly. Still, you can see their fervent supporters like Boehner, and other shameful members of Congress ignoring Israel’s transgressions, and showing it with undying support and loyalty. Disgusting.

  12. biggerjake on February 20, 2015, 9:29 am

    This whole Iran thing is just a ploy by Netanyahu to deflect attention from the brutal occupation of Palestine by Israel.
    Once again Bibi the Bamboozler (Google it) has succeeded in manipulating the blissfully uninformed American politicians.
    Obama is the first president that I can remember that has stood up to Israel…even a little bit. This feckless display of mindless support for an apartheid state makes me sick.
    If and when someone starts a pro-Palestinian PAC, I will happily support it and donate to it.

  13. Crusty on February 20, 2015, 9:45 am

    Israel mistakenly believes that it is the foundation of US foreign policy in the Middle East. Iran borders Pakistan and Afghanistan and it is in the US’s interest to have an ally there- if not an ally at least not an enemy. The US has no choice but to engage Iran with some level of trust, including trust on the nuclear level.

    Israel seems to believe that it is a free agent in a complicated world. Maybe this will be their first hint that they are going to have to play nicely with the rest of the world.

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