Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rejection of a potential agreement on Iran's nuclear program, which he denounced as a "very bad deal," threatens to ignite the most serious U.S.-Israel dispute in years.
His public criticism follows a series of meetings on the topic with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who flew to Geneva today to join talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. They're seeking to nail down the first step in an accord that would relieve some sanctions against Iran if it curtails certain nuclear activities.
The clash over Iran negotiations follows an effort by President Barack Obama to reassure Netanyahu of his support for Israel, including a trip there in March, after a series of disputes. Kerry's talks with Netanyahu have sought to avoid a blanket rejection of initial moves toward a nuclear pact, which could fuel opponents in the U.S. Congress pressing to toughen sanctions.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, who has helped write sanctions legislation, said pressure will build in Congress to move ahead with added strictures against Iran because some allies consider a potential interim nuclear deal to be too weak.
"My sense is it's going to be a very, very tough sell to hold off" congressional action on additional sanctions, "especially with the Israelis and the Saudis just completely freaking out," said Dubowitz, who consults with the Obama administration and Congress on sanctions policy.