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Netanyahu doesn't deny telling Kerry 'don't second guess me again'

By Jake Tapper, CNN
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Sun August 3, 2014
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "I think the United States has been terrific."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • AP report said Benjamin Netanyahu had warned John Kerry on second-guessing him
  • Netanyahu doesn't deny it, but says the report missed the general "tone" of the calls
  • "I think the United States has been terrific," Netanyahu adds
  • Sources say the Obama and Netanyahu administrations are at odds over Gaza

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not deny a report that he told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro "not to ever second guess me again" on how to deal with Hamas, though he said the report did not reflect the general "tone and substance" of the calls.

"First let me make a general statement about our relationship with the United States," Netanyahu said in English on Saturday evening when an American journalist asked about the report from Matt Lee of the Associated Press. "I think the United States has been terrific."

Netanyahu then praised President Barack Obama's "unequivocal stand with Israel on our right to defend ourselves" as well as the "untiring efforts" of Kerry. He also called Shapiro "a great ambassador" and thanked Congress for passing an additional $225 million to help Israel pay for its Iron Dome defense system.

Israeli spokesman responds to Hamas
Hamas targets soldiers destroying tunnels

Some Israeli officials believed the attempt by Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to broker a cease-fire with Hamas -- the militant group that controls Gaza and which the U.S. government considers to be a terrorist organization -- was ill-conceived.

Just 90 minutes into the 72-hour cease-fire, Israel accused Hamas of breaking it with an attack on Israeli soldiers through one of its tunnels.

Though officials tend to sing from the same song sheet in public, there is a clear behind-the-scenes tension between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations over many issues, sources tell CNN -- including whether Israel's military operations in Gaza are excessive and resulting in preventable civilian deaths.

In his news conference Saturday night, Netanyahu attempted to lump in the Associated Press report, which neither American nor Israeli officials have denied, with a supposed transcript of a phone call between Obama and Netanyahu that has been widely rejected as bogus by officials in both governments.

"There is a lot of support and we deeply appreciate it, and that is the substance of our relationship, that's the tone of our relationship, which gets to the question of these reports that are not only of my conversation with Ambassador Shapiro but also with the President that are full of incorrections, full of distortions and are wrong in both tone and substance."

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