Barack Obama
Barack ObamaReuters

The Obama administration said Wednesday it is, indeed, withholding from Israel some sensitive details of its nuclear negotiations with Iran because Israeli officials have leaked information to try to torpedo the talks – and may do so again.

The White House and State Department both said they were not giving Israel full details from the negotiations.

Asked whether the U.S. was limiting the amount of information it shared with Israel about the talks, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters: “The United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

“So, there is an obligation when you're participating in these kinds of negotiations to ensure that those consultations and that those negotiations are carried out in good faith. And that means giving negotiators the room and the space to negotiate,” he added.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that one of the steps the administration takes to ensure that “classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors” is to withhold them from Israel. She also directly blamed Israel for misrepresenting the talks.

“I think it's safe to say that not everything you're hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” she said. “There's a selective sharing of information.”

According to the Associated Press, Earnest and Psaki both said the limitations on information sharing with Israel were not a new policy, but US officials “more directly involved in the talks” said the decision to keep Israel in the dark is only a few weeks old.

Those officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration believes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made a political decision “to try to destroy the negotiations rather than merely insist on a good deal,” the AP explained.

Senior US officials have expressed consternation with reports in the Israeli media, as well as by the AP, about the number of centrifuges Iran might be able to keep under a potential agreement.