During Thursday’s White House briefing, the Associated Press’ Jim Kuhnhenn interrogated press secretary Josh Earnest over the Obama administration’s unequal treatment of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Kuhnhenn asked the White House flack why the Ayatollah is getting “the benefit of the doubt” from the administration over comments about the Iran deal last week, but Netanyahu does not after his comments that there would be no Palestinian state.
Earnest pushed back against the notion that the Ayatollah is getting the benefit of the doubt, saying that “distrust and verify” is the approach the administration is currently taking.
JIM KUHNHENN: On Iran, with talks, I believe, scheduled to restart next week, I want to go back to something the president said on Saturday at a press conference which was when asked about comments that Ayatollah Khamenei made he suggested that politics was driving that, internal politics in Iran. That there hardliners and in the end that might not end up being the final position that Iran takes in these negotiations.
A month ago, when Prime Minister Netanyahu said that under his watch there would be no Palestinian state, under the heat of the campaign, and then he later walked those comments back. The president still said that he believed the prime minister’s comment at the time.
I am curious why the Ayatollah gets the benefit of the doubt on his remarks but Netanyahu does not?
JOSH EARNEST: Well this is the thing, Jim, the Ayatollah does not get the benefit of the doubt. We have indicated time and time again that these negotiations with the Iranians are not built on trust.
The foundation of these talks is ensuring that there are verification measures in place to confirm their compliance with the agreement. That there’s indication that it would be in the best interest in the international community to just take Iran’s word for it. In fact, what will be required in addition to serious commitments by Iran to rollback key aspects of their nuclear program is compliance with the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program.
So, this is not a matter of taking — accepting the word of the Iranian leadership. In fact, we’ve been pretty blunt about our approach to these negotiations being distrust and verify. And that is going to continue to be our approach.
KUHNHENN: And regarding the relationship with Israel, last month you said because of the prime minister’s comments, you were reevaluating the U.S. approach to the Israelis. After a month, have you come up with what that approach should be?
EARNEST: Well, what we have done over the course of the last month is continue to keep the lines of communication open with our partners in Israel over a variety of issues. I don’t have any policy changes or anything like that to announce today.