US anger at Netanyahu said ‘red-hot’ as ties hit new low

US anger at Netanyahu said ‘red-hot’ as ties hit new low

As Israel’s relationship with its critical ally enters ‘full-blown crisis,’ The Atlantic reports, senior American officials refer to Israeli PM as a ‘chickenshit,’ hell-bent on career preservation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and President Barack Obama embrace at a ceremony welcoming the US leader at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on March 20, 2013 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and President Barack Obama embrace at a ceremony welcoming the US leader at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on March 20, 2013 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

American anger at the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “red hot” and the relationship between Israel and the US is now in a “full-blown crisis,” The Atlantic reported Tuesday.

The piece, by Jeffrey Goldberg, observed the extraordinarily harsh tone now used in increasingly regular and open fashion by Obama administration officials in reference to Jerusalem leaders, chiefly among them Netanyahu. One senior administration official was quoted by the publication as calling the Israeli prime minister “a chickenshit,” referring to what he saw as the premier’s pandering to his political base for fear of electoral defeat, his refusal to make any diplomatic headway with the Palestinians and moderate Arab states, and his fear of initiating wars.

US officials increasingly see the Israeli leader as acting out of a “near-pathological desire for career-preservation” and not much more, the article claimed.

“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the senior official said, referring to the prime minister’s ongoing — but so far unrealized — threats to strike Iran to stop its nuclear program. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat.

“He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”

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.”

But while Netanyahu’s “recalcitrance” has long frustrated Washington, Goldberg wrote, it is his apparent contempt and open derision for American leaders that has sparked fury there. According to the piece, Netanyahu has told several sources that he has “written off” the Obama administration and, should the US finalize a deal with Iran that is not to Israel’s liking, will bypass the White House and speak directly to Congress and the American public against such a deal.

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,” at which point, the piece claimed, the Obama administration may remove its gloves and stop protecting Israel at the UN. While Washington is likely to continue opposing any unilateral Palestinian statehood bid, it may help draft an anti-settlement resolution, the article suggested, which would be catastrophic for Israel’s international standing.

Riffing on Netanyahu’s statements that US strong criticism of East Jerusalem construction was “disconnected from reality,” Goldberg asserted that, on the verge of a third Palestinian uprising and facing increasing international isolation in its defiance of world opinion, it is “the Netanyahu government that appears to be disconnected from reality.” He also called the Israeli right’s message of “the whole world is against us. Only we can protect Israel” disastrous for Israel’s standing as a US ally.

On the issue of Iran and the possibility of a preventative Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities, another US official quoted in the article said it was now too late for Israel to take action and Washington no longer believed it would attempt to do so.

““It’s too late for [Netanyahu] to do anything,” the official said. “Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”

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