Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Sunday addressed perceived tensions between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that the two parties are committed to working together on international security.
Kerry’s comments come two days before Netanyahu delivers a speech focused on Iran to a joint meeting of Congress, a high-profile address at the center of a partisan political dispute in the United States. The controversy was sparked when House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address Congress without first consulting the White House, which conventionally takes the lead on foreign affairs.
“The prime minister is welcome in the United States at any time. We have an unparalleled close security relationship with Israel, and we will continue to,” Kerry said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week." “I talk to the prime minister regularly, including yesterday. We don't want to see this turned into some great political football.”
Kerry did, however, concede that Boehner’s invitation, not to mention Netanyahu's acceptance, caught the administration by surprise.
“Obviously, it was odd, if not unique, that we learned of it from the speaker of the House and that an administration was not included in this process. But the administration is not seeking to politicize this,” Kerry said.
Despite Kerry's attempt to play down the political strains caused by the invitation, the speech has stoked discord between Republicans and Democrats in Congress. It has also put considerable strain on politicians eager to work with Israel on security but skeptical of Netanyahu’s position on nuclear negotiations with Iran.
On Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) knocked Netanyahu for suggesting that he represents not only the people of Israel on the topic of Iran but all Jewish people.
"He doesn't speak for me on this,” Feinstein said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union." "I think it's a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points of view. I think that arrogance does not befit Israel, candidly."