Kerry says 'fight' with Netanyahu over, Obama to visit Israeli Embassy

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Story highlights

  • Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday
  • Netanyahu has requested a boost in annual U.S. funding from $3 to $5 billion

Davos, Switzerland (CNN)The recent thaw between the Obama administration and Israel was further evident on Friday when the White House announced that the President plans to deliver remarks on International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

The White House said Friday that President Barack Obama would "posthumously recognize four individuals who heroically risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis" during the event next Wednesday.
Members of Obama's administration had privately blamed Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer for fueling the breakdown in relations by orchestrating Netanyahu's March address to Congress lobbying against the Iran nuclear deal, which the White House said reflected a breach in protocol since it wasn't consulted.
On Friday, Dermer wrote on Twitter hat he deeply appreciated "Obama's acceptance of our invitation to speak. It will be a worthy tribute to the worthiest among us."
On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry had said that "the fight's over" between the Obama administration and the Israeli government now that the Iran deal is complete.
Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, days after the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, lifting of U.S. sanctions on Tehran, commenced.
The Israeli premier, one of the most vocal critics of the deal, seemed to accept that the pact is a fact and that the key now is successful implementation.
"I think he recognized that the fight's over and we can move on," Kerry said of the public acrimony between Israel and the Obama administration over the pact.
With the nuclear deal in place, Israeli officials say privately that the nuclear threat posed by Iran has been eclipsed for the time being by the threat posed by Iranian-backed terror groups like Hezbollah, who will now stand to get increased funding from Iran because of the sanctions relief, a concern shared by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies.
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Though others have said the amount of money Iran will receive due to sanctions relief will be higher, Kerry Thursday put the number -- once Iran pays off debts -- at $55 billion.
"I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists," he said in an interview with CNBC, referring to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented."
But he later stressed to reporters, "We are confident that this will not result in an increase somehow in the threat to any partner or any friend in the region."
The U.S. has sought to soothe Israeli concerns by jumpstarting talks on a new long-term agreement on U.S. military aid. President Barack Obama is eager to conclude a new defense pact with Israel and stress his commitment to Israeli security as a balance to the years spent feuding with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has requested a boost in annual U.S. funding from $3 to $5 billion when the current 10-year agreement expires next year, although he said Thursday at Davos, "it is nothing compared to what Iran gets" from sanctions relief.
"We will always stand by Israel and we continue to support Israel as firmly as any administration in history," Kerry said.
But the U.S. and Israel continue to spar over the growth of Jewish settlements on land Palestinians seek for a future state.
Just hours before the two men sat down, Israel announced it was seizing about 380 acres of land close to Jericho in the West Bank. Kerry said that when Netanyahu told him Thursday the move was part of a "planning exercise" and there and would be no settlement construction there, he responded with a great deal of "concern."
The differences over settlements got ugly earlier this week when U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said at a high-profile security conference that the U.S. was "concerned and perplexed" by Israel's strategy of building West Bank settlements
"Continued settlement growth raises honest questions about Israel's long-term intentions," Shapiro said, referencing Israel's stated desire for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Shapiro also said that Israel applied law in the occupied West Bank differently to Palestinians and Israelis, noting, "too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities, too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians."
Despite the critical comments, the U.S. has offered strong backing to Israel in response to a months-long wave of attacks on Israeli citizens by Palestinians amid fears that a new intifada, or uprising, is brewing.
Shapiro's remarks drew an angry response from Israel, including Netanyahu, who called the statements "unacceptable and untrue."
On Thursday at Davos, Netanyahu reiterated his support for a peace deal with the Palestinians that results in a two-state solution, blaming Palestinian unwillingness for the lack of results.
Obama said last summer the potential for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal during his remaining time in office was slim.
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Kerry also met Thursday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, where they discussed the three missing American contractors.
Abadi said Thursday morning that it was unclear what happened to the Americans.
On Friday, Kerry will address the World Economic Forum, where he is expected to speak about progress in the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS, also called Daesh.
Kerry travels Friday to Riyadh, where he will meet Saudi and Gulf leaders who are nervous about warming ties between Washington and Iran.
Kerry also wants to secure Saudi support for Syria peace talks between regime officials and members of the Syrian opposition. Disagreements between Saudi Arabia on one side and Russia and Iran on the other about who should represent the opposition at the bargaining table threaten to delay the start of talks, scheduled for Monday.
Downplaying talk of a delay, Kerry said he expected "proximity talks" next week in which the U.N. envoy to Syria, Staffan di Mastura, who is hosting the meeting, would shuttle between the parties.
"You're not going to have a situation where people are sitting down at the table staring at each other or shouting at each other," he said. "You're going to have to build some process here, and that's what will begin."