Netanyahu Responds to U.S.: I Am Under Attack for Defending Israel

Hours after U.S. official quoted calling Netanyahu 'chickenshit', PM says alliance between Israel and U.S. is still strong despite arguments.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaches out to shake hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he was under attack by "anonymous" critics simply because he was defending Israel and its national security interests, but stressed that he "cherished" Israel's alliance with the United States despite the arguments.

Speaking to Knesset hours after a senior U.S. official was quoted calling him a "chickenshit prime minister," Netanyahu told Knesset: "When there are pressures on Israel to concede its security, the easiest thing to do is to concede. You get a round of applause, ceremonies on well-kept lawns, and then come the missiles and the tunnels."

"I am not prepared to make concessions that will endanger our state," Netanyahu said. "Understand, our national interests, topped by security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not what top the interests of those anonymous forces attacking us, and me personally. I am under attack simply because I am defending the State of Israel. If I didn't stand firm on our national interests, I would not be under attack."

"I respect and cherish the deep connection with the United States," Netanyahu said. "Since the establishment of the state, we’ve had our arguments and then some. We have seen time after time, year and year, support rising among the American public. The strategic alliance between the stances is continuing and will continue."

Netanyahu's office earlier Wednesday launched at counter-offensive at the Obama administration, after a senior U.S. official was quoted report by The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg as saying Netanyahu was “a chickenshit prime minister,” who only cares about his political survival.

"Netanyahu will continue to uphold the security interests of Israel and the historical rights of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, and no amount of pressure will change that," Netanyahu's office said in response to the remark, the latest in the ongoing crisis in U.S.-relations.

“The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” the official was cited as saying. According to Goldberg, the Obama administration official said that Netanyahu frustrates the White House and the U.S. State Department the most.

“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said. “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.”