US Secretary of State John Kerry insisted Thursday that Israel's security was a top priority in talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program after an initial deal was signed.
"I can't emphasize enough that Israel's security in this negotiation is at the top of our agenda," Kerry told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
"And the United States will do everything in our power to make certain that Iran's nuclear program of weaponization possibilities is terminated."
Kerry's remarks were aimed at calming tensions with Israel over the interim deal reached in Geneva on November 24, which saw Iran agree to roll back parts of its nuclear program in return for limited relief from Western sanctions, and comes as polls indicate growing distrust of the Obama administration's foreign policy by Israelis. The deal was roundly condemned by Netanyahu, who called it a "historic mistake".
"We agreed on what the goal of the final status agreement (with Iran) ought to be, and in the days ahead we will consult very closely and continuously with our Israeli friends in order to bring about a comprehensive agreement that can withstand everybody's test," Kerry said.
Israel had repeatedly warned against entering an agreement with Iran, urging world powers to keep up the pressure of sanctions and threatening to carry out unilateral military action against Tehran if necessary.
Kerry landed in Israel late on Wednesday for a trip aimed at giving momentum to peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), which have made little apparent headway since they began under his patronage in late July.
In late November, senior Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official Nabil Shaath revealed that the PA is only staying in the peace talks to release all 104 terrorist prisoners promised as a "gesture."
US officials have said the focus during this visit by Kerry would be on Israel's security arrangements under any deal with the PA. However, they refused to confirm media reports citing unnamed State Department officials which claim that Kerry was to present Netanyahu with a proposal aimed at encouraging Israel to drop demands for a continued IDF presence in the strategically-important Jordan Valley.
The prime minister will reportedly receive the proposal through John R. Allen, the former American commander in Afghanistan and a retired Marine general who serves as an adviser to Kerry on Middle Eastern affairs.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon meanwhile urged the PM to remain firm on insisting Israel retain control of the Jordan Valley under any agreement.
"Even if the Americans are our friends we will tell them: Sorry, we are not going to do everything you want, we are not going to give up (security) principles which are essential for us, even if it means the negotiations won't move forward and there won't be a nice ceremony at the White House," he said in an interview with army radio.