Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday reacted to critical statements attributed to US President Barack Obama, saying that only the Israeli people will determine who best represent their interests.
Touting his diplomatic credentials less than a week before national elections, Netanyahu said he would continue to uphold the vital interests of the state of Israel, even when facing rebuke by the international community, as he has done for the past four years in office.
“In the past four years we have contended with tremendous pressures” from the international community, he said. “They demanded we curb our pressure against Iran, that we withdraw to the ’67 lines, that we divide Jerusalem, that we refrain from building in Jerusalem. We rebuffed the pressure,” said Netanyahu during a visit to a military base in the south.
According to a report by Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg published Tuesday morning, Obama last month began repeating the mantra that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are” and called Netanyahu “a political coward.”
The White House has neither confirmed nor denied the statements published by Bloomberg.
“Even close allies disagree from time to time,” Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in an interview to Israel Radio in Wednesday. Ya’alon, who is slated to serve as defense minister should Likud-Beytenu form the next government, said Netanyahu led a responsible and reasonable foreign policy during his four years in office, adding that not every difference of opinion need be reported in terms of “diplomatic isolation” or “political boycotting.”
Other senior Likud officials were quoted in the Israeli press saying the statements attributed to Obama constituted “callous intervention in the [Israeli] elections” by the US government. Likud members also charged that “fingerprints of the Israeli left wing were all over the story.”
Israel considers the US its closest ally, relying on Washington for defense aid, help in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions and political shelter on the world stage.
The two countries briefly tussled during the summer over the timetable for using military action against Iran’s nuclear program. That public fight, coupled with differences over settlement building, exposed fraying ties between the two capitals, and especially between Netanyahu and Obama.
The two leaders will have to deal with each other for several more years, should Netanyahu cruise to an election victory on January 22 as expected.