US senator John McCain accused President Barack Obama of throwing a “temper tantrum” over comments by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding to the conflict between the White House and the Republican-dominated Congress over Israel.
McCain, asked on CNN’s State of the Union show if US-Israel relations were at a dangerous point, said, “I think that’s up to the president of the United States.”
Obama’s sensitive relationship with Netanyahu was strained further by comments Netanyahu made in the closing moments of his successful campaign for re-election last week.
“The president should get over it,” McCain said on CNN. “Get over your temper tantrum, Mr President.
“The least of your problems is what Bibi Netanyahu said during an election campaign. If every politician were held to everything they say in a political campaign, obviously that would be a topic of long discussion.”
McCain, a leading voice in Congress on foreign relations, urged Obama to focus on the growing Islamic State threat in the Middle East and curbing Iran’s nuclear programme.
Netanyahu has become an issue in Democrat Obama’s rocky relationship with Congress, where Republicans hold majorities in both the House and Senate. He told the US Congress earlier this month that the United States should do more to stop Iran’s nuclear programme, speaking at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, who did not consult the White House in advance.
A group of 47 senators also bypassed Obama this month by sending a letter to Iran that the White House said undermined negotiations with Tehran on nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu drew a further rebuke from the White House last week when he abandoned a commitment to negotiate a Palestinian state, even though he later backed off from his comments. Media reports said the US was reviewing its position on a UN Security Council resolution on Palestinian state.
Meanwhile, though France has demanded more stringent restrictions than other Western delegations during talks with Iran, one French diplomat played down Israel’s sway in Paris, saying Netanyahu had overplayed his hand in a March 3 speech to the US Congress.
France, the US and four other world powers suspended negotiations with Iran in Switzerland on Friday and are to reconvene next week to try to break the deadlock over sensitive atomic research and lifting sanctions before a March 31 deadline for a framework deal.
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