White House to Haaretz: 'Chickenshit' Jibe Against Netanyahu Inappropriate, Counterproductive

State Department Spokesperson: When Secretary Kerry next speaks to Netanyahu, he will make clear these statements are not the view of the U.S.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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U.S. President Barack Obama with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during former's arrival ceremony at Ben-Gurion International Airport, March 20, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during former's arrival ceremony at Ben-Gurion International Airport, March 20, 2013.Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The White House on Wednesday disassociated itself from a remark made by U.S. official calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "chickenshit," in an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrery Goldberg published on Tuesday.

Alistair Baskey, Deputy Spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council told Haaretz that the official's quotes against Netanyahu did not represent the Obama administration's views.

"We think such comments are inappropriate and counter-productive," said Baskey. "Prime Minister Netanyahu and the president have forged an effective partnership, and consult closely and frequently, including earlier this month when the president hosted the Prime Minister in the Oval Office."

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said during Wednesday's daily briefing that the statements about Netanyahu in The Atlantic came from anonymous sources, and that "President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry don't see them as accurate or appropriate."

According to Psaki, such statements are "not productive and not constructive," and the sources who gave interviews to The Atlantic did so without authorization. "If this issue comes up we will make sure it is clear it's not reflective of the secretary's views," she said, adding that "when the secretary speaks next to Netanyahu, he will make cleat it is not our view."

Netanyahu's office responded to the remarks, the latest in the ongoing crisis in U.S.-relations, by saying that, "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,

Netanyahu himself said 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.

The unnamed official in the article was quoted as saying, “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit." 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.”

Another senior U.S. official told Goldberg that unlike the situation from 2010 to 2012, the White House no longer believes that Netanyahu will launch a preemptive strike on Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.

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

Meanwhile, the National Jewish Democratic Council expressed "surprise and disappointment at the profane and inappropriate language" attributed to an Obama administration official, adding that "cooperation between the two countries has never been stronger."

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