Netanyahu hits back after being called a coward

2014-10-29 19:23
(Dan Balilty, AP)

(Dan Balilty, AP)

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Tel Aviv - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday lashed back at US officials who have criticised his backing of settlement construction and attacked him for lack of political courage, amid rising tensions in Israeli-US relations.

The latest outburst was prompted by an article in US publication The Atlantic, in which journalist Jeffrey Goldberg quoted an unnamed senior official in President Barack Obama's administration as calling the Israeli premier a "chickenshit".

Netanyahu fired back quickly.

"Our top interests - first and foremost security and a united Jerusalem - are not the top interest of those anonymous sources who attack us and me personally," he said, according to a statement from his office.

"When there's pressure on Israel to compromise its security, the easiest is to give in. You get applause and ceremonies on grass lawns - afterwards come the missiles and the [attack] tunnels," he told lawmakers in Jerusalem.

Goldberg also quoted other unnamed Obama administration officials as having described Netanyahu as "recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and 'Aspergery' [a type of high-functioning autism]."

Netanyahu pointed at what he said was wide support for Israel among the American public.

"The strategic and the moral bond between the [two] states continues and will continue," he said.

"I respect and honour the United States. Since the state [of Israel] was founded, we have had arguments with the US. We will have more. But it doesn't come at the expense of the deep relations between our peoples and our states," he said.

Goldberg wrote on Tuesday that the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, was "yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis".

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon only met his counterpart Chuck Hagel while visiting the US earlier this month, but was denied meetings with other top officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry. Such visits used to be common practice when Israeli defence ministers visited Washington.

In March, the US had said it was "disappointed" that Yaalon had not apologised for calling Obama "weak".

And in January, Yaalon caused a stir by calling Kerry "obsessive and messianic", referring to the way the secretary was pushing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, allegedly at the expense of Israeli security. Yaalon did apologise for that.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney at the time said Yaalon's remarks, if accurate, were "offensive and inappropriate especially in light of everything the United States is doing to support Israel's security needs".

Goldberg said administration officials had expressed "red-hot" anger at Netanyahu's announcement earlier this week that Israel would build another 1 000 housing units in East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has struck a deal with Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, to build a total of 2 000 homes in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank, and pave 12 roads in the occupied territory, in exchange for a promise of coalition stability, Channel 2 reported on Sunday.

US officials, reacting, insinuated he was more interested in preserving his seat and pleasing his hardline constituency than in taking bold steps towards a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  us

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