What a Senior Obama Admin. Official Reportedly Called Netanyahu Signals Relations Are at a ‘Full-Blown Crisis’

A senior Obama administration official recently called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickens**t,” according to an article published in the Atlantic Tuesday.

Penned by American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, who focuses on Middle Eastern politics, the unidentified official referred to Netanyahu by his nickname “Bibi” to him in conversation.

“The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickens**t,” this official said.

President Barack Obama listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official reportedly added, expanding on his “chickens**t” comment. “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.”

Another administration official told Goldberg that he agreed the Israeli prime minister is a “chickens**t,” but went further, calling Netanyahu a “coward” in regards to the way he has dealt with the growing Iranian nuclear threat. According to the official, he no longer believes Netanyahu will preemptively strike Tehran to prevent the Middle Eastern country from attaining nuclear weapons.

“It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility,” the official reportedly said. “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.”

Goldberg wrote in his story that the comment is “representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis.”

“The relationship between these two administrations— dual guarantors of the putatively ‘unbreakable’ bond between the U.S. and Israel—is now the worst it’s ever been, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections, he added. “By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program.”

Over the years, senior Obama administration officials have called Netanyahu a number of names, according to Goldberg, who noted that he keeps a “running list.” He said those names include, “recalcitrant,” “myopic,” “reactionary,” “obtuse,” “blustering,” “pompous,” and “aspergery.”

According to Goldberg, the administration views Netanyahu as someone who is less interested in taking risks to establish lasting policies and more interested in taking positions to protect himself politically. In contrast, Netanyahu has given up on the Obama administration and has decided to take his case to the American people and Congress should a nuclear deal with Iran be reached, Goldberg reported.

Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

239 Comments