WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Israel escalated their increasingly public spat Wednesday over Benjamin Netanyahu’s GOP-engineered congressional speech next week, with the Israeli prime minister accusing world powers of rolling over to allow Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry openly questioned Netanyahu’s judgment on the issue.

The comments injected new tension into an already strained relationship between the close allies ahead of Netanyahu’s address to Congress next Tuesday. More Democratic lawmakers announced they would skip the speech, which was orchestrated by GOP leaders without the Obama administration’s knowledge.

Netanyahu hopes his speech will strengthen opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran, President Obama’s signature foreign policy objective. U.S. and Iranian officials reported progress in negotiations this week on a deal that would clamp down on Tehran’s nuclear activities for at least 10 years but then slowly ease restrictions.

Netanyahu lashed out at the U.S. and other usual staunch allies of Israel.

“It appears that they have given up on that commitment and are accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, will develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons,” he said in Israel.

“They might accept this but I am not willing to accept this,” he said in remarks delivered in Hebrew and translated. “I respect the White House, I respect the president of the United States, but in such a fateful matter that can determine if we exist or not, it is my duty to do everything to prevent this great danger to the state of Israel.”

Kerry, testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, dismissed Netanyahu’s worries. He argued that a 2013 interim agreement with Iran that the prime minister also opposed had in fact made Israel safer by freezing key aspects of the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

“He may have a judgment that just may not be correct here,” Kerry said.

His comments, as well as statements from other top U.S. officials, made clear the Obama administration had no plans to mask its frustrations during Netanyahu’s visit.

In an interview Tuesday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said plans for Netanyahu’s speech had “injected a degree of partisanship” into a U.S.-Israel relationship that should be above politics.