Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he will not be deterred from “defending Israel” by personal attacks, in response to a report that quoted an anonymous US official calling him a “chickenshit.”
“I was personally attacked purely because I defend Israel, and despite all the attacks against me, I will continue to defend our country, I will continue to defend the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu told the Knesset.
The prime minister added that he remained confident that the current disagreements between the US and Israel would not affect the two countries’ “deep connection.”
“I respect and appreciate the deep ties with the United States we’ve had since the establishment of the state,” he said. “We’ve had arguments before, and we’ll have them again, but this will not come at the expense of the deep connection between our peoples and our countries.”
Netanyahu struck back at the unnamed official in Washington who called him “chickenshit,” saying that Israel’s “supreme interests, foremost the security and unity of Jerusalem, are not the top priority of those who attacked us, and me personally.”
“If I didn’t defend the state of Israel, if I wouldn’t stand decisively for the national interests, they wouldn’t be attacking me,” he said.
The prime minister made his comments following the publication of a story in the Atlantic that portrayed the rift between the US and Israel as a “full-blown crisis.”
The report quoted one Obama administration official calling Netanyahu a “chickenshit,” and others saying they increasingly see the Israeli leader as acting out of a “near-pathological desire for career-preservation” and not much more.
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu’s fellow Likud party-members came to his defense.
“The unrestrained criticism against Israel and its leader quoted today from “officials” in the White House crossed all lines,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in his opening remarks to the parliament Wednesday. “You can have disagreements, but in diplomatic relations — certainly among close allies — it is appropriate to maintain a respectful dialogue.”
International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz charged that insulting the prime minister was tantamount to insulting the Israeli people.
“The prime minister of Israel is not a private [citizen] and he represents the position of the democratic and sovereign State of Israel and its constant fear for its existence and security,” Steinitz said in a statement. “Therefore offensive comments toward him are insults against the State of Israel and its citizens.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.