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Netanyahu ‘will continue to stand for Israeli interests’

PM’s office rejects bitter US criticism in The Atlantic, where one official called him ‘chickenshit,’ amid reports of a ‘full-blown crisis’; Bennett warns US plans to ‘throw Israel under the bus’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on October 22, 2014. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on October 22, 2014. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash90)

The Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday rebuffed a report in The Atlantic of withering US criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where one senior US official was quoted as calling the Israeli leader “a chickenshit.”

Sources in the office said Netanyahu “will continue to stand for Israeli interests, and no pressure will change this.”

On Tuesday night Economy Minister Naftali Bennett responded strongly to the harsh statements by unnamed officials, calling them an affront to Jews throughout the world and urging Washington to renounce them.

The piece in The Atlantic on Tuesday said US anger at the Netanyahu government was “red hot” and that the relationship between Jerusalem and Washington was now in a “full-blown crisis,” with one senior US official calling the Israeli leader “a chickenshit” over his perceived reluctance to risk political clout for diplomatic headway with the Palestinians and moderate Arab states.

Bennett, the leader of the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home coalition party, wrote on his Facebook page: “If what was written [in The Atlantic] is true, then it appears the current administration plans to throw Israel under the bus.”

“Not the leader of Syria who has massacred 150,000 of his citizens, nor the leader of Saudi Arabia who stones women and homosexuals, nor the leader of Iran who murdered demonstrators for freedom were called ‘chickenshit,’” Bennett opined.

“The prime minister is not a private person but the leader of the Jewish state and the whole Jewish world. Such severe insults towards the prime minister of Israel are hurtful to millions of Israeli citizens and Jews all over the world,” he wrote.

“Israel is the only democratic nation in the Middle East and has been fighting for its existence for 66 years. Israel is the forward bastion of the free world in the face of the Islamic terrorism of Islamic State, Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran,” he added. “Instead of attacking Israel and forcing it to accept suicidal terms, it should be strengthened. I call on the US administration to renounce these coarse comments and to reject them outright.”

According to the report in The Atlantic, US officials increasingly see the Israeli leader as acting out of a “near-pathological desire for career-preservation” and not much more.

Writer Jeffrey Goldberg observed that the relationship between Obama, Netanyahu and their respective cabinets was “the worst it’s ever been, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections.”

Diplomatic rhetoric has heated up in recent days as the US used strong terms to condemn Netanyahu’s Monday approval for a thousand new homes in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Israel’s continued building across the Green Line was “incompatible with their stated desire to live in a peaceful society.”

But Netanyahu rebuffed the criticism from American, European and Palestinian leaders.

“We have built in Jerusalem, we are building in Jerusalem and we will continue to build in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “I have heard a claim that our construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem makes peace more distant. It is the criticism which is making peace more distant.”

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