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Kerry: Netanyahu Misjudging Nuclear Talks with Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington Feb. 25, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is wrong in his judgment of nuclear talks with Iran.

Netanyahu told fellow Likud party members Wednesday that, by making concessions to the Iranians, the United States and its partners have given up on their commitment to keep Iran from being able to build a nuclear weapon.

Kerry told a congressional hearing that what has been accomplished so far in talks with Tehran has actually made Israel safer by stopping Iran from advancing its nuclear program. He said critics of the ongoing talks with Iran, including Netanyahu, may not know what they are talking about.

"The policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon," Kerry told Congress. "And anybody running around right now jumping in to say, 'Well, we do not like the deal'.....does not know what the deal is. There is no deal yet."

The White House is angry that Boehner offered the invitation to the Israeli leader without informing Obama administration officials. President Barack Obama has since announced he will not meet with Netanyahu during his visit, in order to avoid any appearance that he is trying to influence the Israeli elections.

Netanyahu is facing re-election in just three weeks.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice told American television journalist Charlie Rose Tuesday that speaker Boehner and Netanyahu have "injected a degree of partisanship" into Israeli-U.S. relations.

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White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday ties between Israel and the United States cannot be reduced to a relationship between Israel's Likud and the Republicans - two conservative parties.

Several Democratic lawmakers have announced they will not attend Netanyahu's speech in response to Boehner's invitation. Vice President Joe Biden, who would normally be in attendance in his constitutional role as president of the U.S. Senate, will be traveling abroad.

For his part, Netanyahu turned down an invitation by Democratic senators to hold a private meeting with them during his visit. In a letter to Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, Netanyahu said such a meeting "at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit.''

"We offered the prime minister an opportunity to balance the politically divisive invitation from Speaker Boehner with a private meeting with Democrats who are committed to keeping the bipartisan support of Israel strong,'' Durbin said in a written statement. “His refusal to meet is disappointing to those of us who have stood by Israel for decades.”

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