Top 10 Verbal Spitballs Between Obama and Netanyahu

Highlights from a history of incorrect relations, before 'chickenshit.'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Body language: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.Credit: AP

So U.S. President Barack Obama's people called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "chickenshit"? There's a lot more where that came from – in both directions since early 2009, when the two men took office almost simultaneously. Here's a top ten of the worst verbal hazings the pair (or their henchmen) have inflicted on each other, including the top five from each side, in order of intensity. (Not counting this last one.)

Team Obama spritzes team Bibi

1. White House walk-out, March 2010. After Netanyahu refuses to agree to a settlement freeze, Obama abruptly gets up from meeting to have dinner with family, leaving Netanyahu and aides to cool their heels for a solid hour. Obama to Bibi: "I'm going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls. I'm still around. Let me know if there is anything new." No dinner for the guests.

2. French connection, November 2011. After a G20 summit in Cannes, then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, thinking his microphone is off, tells Obama that Netanyahu is a "liar." Obama, thinking the same about his own mic, replies, "You're fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day!"

3. Hear Hillary roar, March 2010. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reams out Netanyahu for 45 minutes over the phone, following the welcome to Jerusalem afforded Vice President Joe Biden: the announcement of 1,600 new housing units to be built over the Green Line.

4. The A-word, April 2014. With his peace mission about to crash, Kerry tells an ostensibly off-the-record Trilateral Commission meeting that if Israel doesn't go for the two-state solution, it risks becoming an "apartheid state." Unbeknownst to Kerry, he is being taped.

5. Blaming Bibi, May 2014. After the Kerry talks fail, "U.S. officials" – widely believed to be special envoy to the talks Martin Indyk – give their post mortem to Yedioth Ahronoth's Nahum Barnea. "There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort's failure, but people in Israel shouldn't ignore the bitter truth – the primary sabotage came from the settlements," Indyk/the officials say.

Team Bibi spritzes team Obama

1. Lecturing the prez, May 2011. In the photo op after a meeting at the White House, Netanyahu trashes both protocol and the president. Reproaching Obama for pressuring him to accept the 1967 borders with land swaps, Netanyahu lectures his visibly peeved host on Jewish history.

2. The Bogieman goes off, January 2014: When he accuses U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry of being "obsessive and messianic," saying he hopes Kerry "gets a Nobel Prize and leaves us alone," Defense Minister Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon thinks he's speaking to a Yedioth Ahronoth reporter off the record. The reporter thinks differently.

3. Rooting for Romney, July 2012. Netanyahu doesn't attend the Jerusalem fundraiser for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but he doesn't object to it, either, and he does a mutally admiring photo op with the Republican. Call it implausible deniability.

4. Yankee Doodle Bibi, October 2014. After the Obama administration makes yet another demurral over yet another announcement of housing construction in East Jerusalem, Netanyahu goes on CBS's "Face the Nation" to denounce Washington's stance as being "against American values." U.S. midterm elections are a month away, a time when Israel is sacrosanct; the PM takes the opportunity to push the envelope.

5. The Auschwitz letters, March 2012. Telling an AIPAC convention that Israel can trust no one but itself to deal with Iran's nukes, Netanyahu holds up copies of two letters written in 1944: One from the World Jewish Congress urging the U.S. War Department to bomb Auschwitz, and the War Department's negative reply. Whatever the Obama administration thinks, the AIPACers love it.

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