With hard feelings all around, White House set to rebut Netanyahu

Expecting Netanyahu to issue withering criticism of President Barack Obama’s moves toward a nuclear deal with Iran, the White House was planning to go on the offense, dispatching two high-profile officialsU.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Riceto rebut the prime minister in speeches to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby holding its annual conference in Washington.

The full court press will also include Obama himself, who sits down for an on-camera interview Monday afternoon with the Reuters newswire.

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However, the debate over negotiating with Iran will play out on television and in the media: Obama is refusing to meet with Netanyahu when he’s in Washington, the White House said, because Israeli elections are just around the corner. The two leaders won’t even exchange a phone call, one senior administration official added.

A senior administration official said Netanyahu’s warnings have proven wrong before, noting the prime minister once assailed the interim nuclear deal with Iran that’s now in place. Now, Netanyahu wants that agreement extended, the official said.

The hard feelings expressed by both camps threaten to unleash what may become a new, more adversarial chapter in U.S. Israeli relations.

“We can never allow Israel to be political wedge issue, it’s too important to the United States, it’s gotta be off limits,” U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, D-Maryland told the AIPAC conference Sunday.

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