White House calls ‘chickenshit’ Netanyahu slur ‘inappropriate’

Administration official says PM and Obama have forged an effective partnership, despite recent anonymous attacks

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on October 7, 2014. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / POOL /DAN BALILTY)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on October 7, 2014. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / POOL /DAN BALILTY)

The White House denounced on Wednesday comments from an anonymous US official published the previous day calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.”

“Certainly, that’s not the administration’s view, and we think such comments are inappropriate and counterproductive,” said National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey, according to The Hill. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and the president have a forged an effective partnership, and consult closely and frequently, including earlier this month when the president hosted the prime minister in the Oval Office.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Secretary of State John Kerry would personally make it clear to Netanyahu that the comments do not reflect the view of the administration.

The comments were published in a story by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic that portrayed the rift between the United States and Israel as a “full-blown crisis.”

The report quoted one Obama administration official calling Netanyahu a “chickenshit” and Goldberg said previous officials had called the prime minister “recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and ‘Aspergery’.” It said US officials increasingly see the Israeli leader as acting out of a “near-pathological desire for career-preservation” and not much more.

Netanyahu said Wednesday in response to the report that he would not be deterred from “defending Israel” by personal attacks.

“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.”

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.”

Spencer Ho and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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