UPDATE: The White House responds.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is being attacked anonymously by senior Obama administration officials because he stands up for Israel’s security.
“I am being attacked because I am willing to defend the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech Wednesday to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. “The easy thing to do is to compromise when there is pressure.”
Israeli officials from the president on down have voiced dismay at insults attributed to Obama administration officials who called Netanyahu a “chickens**t” and a “coward,” among other insults, according to the Atlantic in a piece published Tuesday.
“The safety of Israel is not important to those who attack me anonymously and personally,” Netanyahu said. “They’re attacking me because I stand for our safety and our security interests.”
Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, a leading political rival of Netanyahu’s, came to the prime minister’s defense Tuesday night, accusing the administration of “throwing Israel under the bus.”
“The leader of Syria who slaughtered 150,000 people was not awarded the name “chickens**t,” Bennett wrote on Facebook. “Neither was the leader of Saudi Arabia who stones women and homosexuals or the leader of Iran who murders freedom protesters.”
“The prime minister of Israel is not a private person. He is the leader of the Jewish state and the entire Jewish people. Cursing the prime minister and calling him names is an insult not just to him but to the millions of Israeli citizens and Jews across the globe,” Bennett wrote.
An official in the prime minister’s office told Israel Radio Wednesday in response to the criticism that Netanyahu “will continue to stand for Israeli interests, and no pressure will change this.”
Communications Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel’s NRG news site, “It’s ridiculous and even sad that senior Obama administration officials vilify and curse the prime minister with sayings that they never used against mass murderers like Assad and others. Expressions like these play into the hands of Islamic extremism which draws strength from them.”
Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in the piece that, “Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and ‘Aspergery.’ (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.)”
The chicken reference related to Netanyahu’s perceived unwillingness to reach a peace accommodation with Palestinians and that he never launched a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Goldberg wrote.
“He’s got no guts,” the unnamed senior official said.
Describing Netanyahu as cowardly prompted conservative commentators and others to unflatteringly compare the Israeli leader — a former Israeli Defense Forces commando — with President Barack Obama.
A chickenshit and a fighter. pic.twitter.com/TZgVEza0fh
— Dani Dayan (@dandayan) October 28, 2014
If only Netanyahu had Obama's legendary bravery.
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) October 29, 2014
Roger L. Simon of P.J. Media observed, “Never mind for a moment the absurdity of an (of course anonymous) Obama official calling the Israeli PM a coward when Netanyahu has been personally under fire in two wars, volunteering for the second after having been wounded by a gun shot in the first (his brother, as many will remember, was killed during the raid on Entebbe — both Netanyahus were in Sayeret Matkal [IDF counterterrorism unit]) at approximately the time the official’s boss Barry was lulling on a balmy Hawaiian beach smoking ‘choom’ with his gang.”
Others pointed out the very different treatment given by the White House to Islamist rulers accused of supporting terrorism.
— Ben Cohen (@BenCohenOpinion) October 28, 2014
The State Department on Monday strongly condemned Netanyahu’s approval for construction of homes in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Israeli construction across the 1967 border was “illegitimate” and “incompatible with their stated desire to live in a peaceful society.”
Netanyahu took issue with the criticism, saying, “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.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was asked Wednesday about the crisis in relations with the U.S. following the Atlantic report.
“Israel has three principles that are binding on its foreign relations – first the relationship with the U.S. The second, relations with the U.S. The third thing which is just as important is the relationship with the U.S.,” Rivlin told Army Radio. “However, the U.S. understands that we built Jerusalem and Jerusalem will remain built as it is in its entirety.”
Netanyahu also emphasized the importance of the relations with the U.S.
“I laud the deep connection we have with the United States,” he said. “We have more support from the American people than ever, and our strategic ties continue.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, called on Obama to “name, apologize for and repudiate” whoever anonymously who disparaged Netanyahu.
“It is rather ironic that a senior American official is prepared to curse his friends, yet when it comes to the mortal enemies of the United States – as the Iranians discovered during the recent nuclear negotiation – praise is heaped on them,” Hier told the Jewish news site the Algemeiner.