Both the White House and State Department on Wednesday confirmed that the U.S. has been withholding information from Israel concerning the nuclear talks with Iran, while also accusing Israel of “cherry-picking” to “distort” the public’s perception of the negotiations.
“The United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, 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,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday when asked about a report that the U.S. was withholding information from Israel on the Iran talks.
The statement by the White House essentially confirms an earlier report by Israel’s Channel 2 network that the U.S. was withholding information on the Iran talks in order to “punish” Israel. U.S.-Israel relations have seen increased tension of late over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to address Congress next month, despite objections from the White House.
Earnest further criticized Israel in relation to the P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China, and Germany) talks with the Iranians, saying, “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,” he added.
The New York Times reported that the Obama administration had warned U.S. allies involved in the Iran talks to not be too open with Israel “because whatever we say may be used in a selective way.” The report added that the U.S. is angry that Israel has leaked specific details of the negotiations such as the number of centrifuges that the Iranians would be permitted to operate, while also omitting key facts about how quickly the centrifuges could produce fuel needed for a nuclear bomb.
Meanwhile, State Department spokeswomen Jen Psaki confirmed that the Obama administration is withholding information from Israel to ensure that “classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors.” Psaki also accused Israel of distortion.
“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,” Psaki said.