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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Congressman confirms report of heated argument between Netanyahu and US envoy

Congressman confirms report of heated argument between Netanyahu and US envoy
It was like ‘nothing at that level that I’ve seen in all my time,’ says Mike Rogers. Ambassador Shapiro had denied breaking protocol and called the original Israeli article ‘a very silly story’

By Yoel Goldman
September 07, 2012 "
Times Of Israel" - -  A report claiming there was a dramatic verbal bust-up between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro late last month — which was flatly denied this week by Shapiro in a TV interview — was confirmed by a congressman who was present at the meeting, which covered divergent US and Israeli policies on Iran.
The exchange was like “nothing at that level that I’ve seen in all my time,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan.
The State Department would not comment Thursday on the apparent contradiction.
Rogers told a Detroit radio station that the Netanyahu-Shapiro interchange, at the meeting on August 24 in Jerusalem, featured “very tense,” “agitated” and “elevated” exchanges, and that Netanyahu was “at wit’s end” with what the prime minister saw as a lack of US clarity on the Iran issue.
“It was very, very clear that the Israelis had lost their patience with the administration,” Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee, was quoted by the Washington Post Thursday as saying.
His account contradicted statements made by US envoy Shapiro, who went on television earlier this week to flatly deny the original report in Yedioth Ahronoth as “a very silly story.”
According to the Yedioth article, Ambassador Shapiro grew enraged by Netanyahu’s remarks about President Barack Obama’s handling of the Iranian threat, broke diplomatic protocol, and snapped at the PM for misrepresenting the US president’s position. “Sparks and lightning were flying,” an unnamed source told the paper.
But in an interview Sunday with Channel 2 News, the ambassador was dismissive when asked about the newspaper’s account of the closed-door meeting.
“The published account of that meeting did not reflect what actually occurred in the meeting,” Shapiro said. “The conversations were entirely friendly and professional. They always are. I always speak respectfully with the prime minister, just as the prime minister always speaks respectfully with me. And that really characterizes all of the dialogue between our governments.”
The envoy continued: “We’re such close allies, we have so many common interests… that we speak together in the most friendly, the most professional way. Even on an occasion that we have a disagreement, that’s how we work together. And that was certainly the case in the (recent) meeting.”
There was no argument, no verbal skirmish, no disagreement, the interviewer persisted? “Sorry to disappoint you,” Shapiro responded.
But Rogers, who was interviewed Tuesday on the Detriot radio program, gave a version of the meeting that reinforced the Yedioth story. He said there were “elevated” exchanges between Netanyahu and Shapiro, adding: “We’ve had sharp exchanges with other heads of state and other things, in intelligence services and other things, but nothing at that level that I’ve seen in all my time, where people were clearly that agitated, clearly that worked up about a particular issue, where there was a very sharp exchange.”
He said that Netanyahu does not believe Obama would attack Iran, and that the prime minister was frustrated that the US has not defined “red lines” for Iran and its nuclear program.
State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez declined Thursday to address Rogers’ comments, saying only that America’s relationship with Israel remains extremely strong.
Asher Zeiger contributed to this report.

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