Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday to discuss the recent bilateral agreement that dials back Iran’s ability to work toward a nuclear weapon. Since the deal was announced on Saturday, Netanyahu has been a harsh critic of the plan.
Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said the call was aimed at ensuring Netanyahu knew that the United States “remains completely committed to closely consulting with Israel through this process.”
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The president, Earnest said, “also reiterated that the United States and Israel are committed to the same goal, which is ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.”
Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu slammed the deal crafted by six world powers and Iran.
“What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it's a historic mistake," the prime minister said. "It's not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.”
Netanyahu, who has long been critical of the talks with Iran, said the agreement allowed Iran to “continue its enrichment of uranium” while only “taking only cosmetic steps, which it could reverse easily within a few weeks, and in return, sanctions that took years to put in place are going to be eased.”
In a written statement about the call, the White House acknowledged that Netanyahu has “has good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions,” but said Obama pledged the international community will “use the months ahead to pursue a lasting, peaceful and comprehensive solution that would resolve the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.”
“The President and Prime Minister agreed to stay in close contact on this issue as the P5+1 and Iran negotiate a long-term solution over the next six months,” the statement said.
On Saturday, six world powers and Iran announced a six-month agreement to deal with Iran’s nuclear aspirations and the international communities concern about the country developing a nuclear bomb.
In addition to slowing Iran’s nuclear ability, the agreement loosens the sanctions the international community has levied on the country. Those sanctions that have sufficiently damaged the nation’s economy.
In a briefing with reporters, Earnest credited the sanctions with allowing a deal to come together.
“Because of those sanctions, Iran had taken advantage of a diplomatic opportunity,” he said. “Those sanctions are what brought the Iranian regime to the table.
The historic deal, while heralded by many, has been panned by some Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, an important Democratic voice on Iran, said the deal disproportionately favors Iran, and he predicted bipartisan support in Congress for new sanctions. Likewise Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the sanctions have been working and the new agreement "makes it very difficult to continue the sanctions."
Republicans have also been critical, with some – such as Sen. John Cornyn of Texas – saying the deal is just a way for the Obama administration to distract from the botched rollout of Obamacare, the president’s signature health care law.
Earnest, who made these comments aboard Air Force One as the President headed to the West Coast for a string of fundraisers, said while he didn’t want to address Cornyn directly, that “there are many people who took a rather dim view of that perspective, both towards its plausibly and towards what it says about our foreign policy priories in this country.”
Instead, Earnest said the White House wants “to work closely with Congress” on the next steps with Iran and that “most senators recognize there is an important role for Congress to play as we move forward.”
Working with Iran is something Obama has said he would do since he was first elected in 2008.
In a CNN/YouTube debate in 2008, Obama was asked if he would meet separately, without precondition, with leaders from “Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea” – all rouge nations with little diplomatic interaction with the United States.
“I would,” he said. “And the reason is this: the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them-which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration - is ridiculous.”
During his first inaugural address, Obama made a similar pledge, stating “to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
On Sunday, Earnest revisited those remarks as proof that a deal with Iran is something Obama has wanted and aimed to achieve since he was first elected.
“There was a robust debate during the President’s first run at this office back in 2007 about the wisdom of bilateral communications between the U.S. and Iran,” Earnest said. “I only raise that to remind you that these kinds of conversations are something that the President has long advocated.”
- CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.