White House denies threat to shoot down Israeli jets

The White House on Monday flatly denied a report that the president threatened to strike Israeli jets after Israel decided to conduct an attack on Iranian nuclear sites in 2014.  

"The reports — like many of the 'reports' emerging coincidentally this week about the Iran talks — are completely false," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement emailed to The Hill. 


The rebuttal came after a Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Jarida, reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had planned to strike Iran in 2014 after discovering the U.S. and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran's nuclear program.  

Netanyahu was forced to abort the attack after Obama's threat, Al-Jarida reported on Saturday. The report said an Israeli minister revealed the attack plans to Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Warning signs flash for Trump on debates Divided country, divided church TV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month MORE, and that Obama threatened to shoot the jets down before they reached their targets.  

The report also said that Israeli fighter jets trained for several weeks for the attack, and even carried out experimental flights in Iran's airspace. 

The report highlights the deep tensions between Israel and the White House, as Netanyahu prepares to address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday on Iran's nuclear program. 

Netanyahu is expected to warn lawmakers against accepting a bad deal between Iran and international negotiators, who are racing to meet a March 24 deadline on a framework agreement to roll back Iran's nuclear program. 

The visit was arranged without the knowledge of the White House, which has accused Netanyahu of interfering with domestic affairs and seeking to gain advantage in upcoming Israeli elections. 

Netanyahu's address, and the anticipated deal, has deeply divided Capitol Hill — with a majority of lawmakers in a Republican-controlled House and Senate supporting legislation that would punish Iran if it walked away from talks or violated any future agreement. 

The White House has successfully lobbied lawmakers to hold off on any legislation until March 24, but as Kerry acknowledged Monday morning in Geneva, "the clock is ticking."

On Friday afternoon, a bipartisan group of senators introduced new legislation that would give Congress the ability to weigh in on any final deal. The White House said over the weekend it would veto the legislation.