The sometimes acrimonious relationship between the Obama administration and the current Israeli government burst into public view on Wednesday when an anonymous U.S. official was quoted using a barnyard epithet to describe Israel’s leader.
Both the White House and the State Department said it was inappropriate to denigrate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and emphasized the “unbreakable bond” between the two nations.
The slur was used by an unidentified U.S. official in an interview with the Atlantic magazine about strains between the United States and Israel over the building of settlements in the West Bank and negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
“The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickens---,” the official said.
The crude word was used to describe what the official characterized as Netanyahu’s lack of political courage in reaching an accommodation with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s only interest, the official told the Atlantic, is in “protecting himself from political defeat. . . . He’s got no guts.”
The Israeli leader treated the name-calling as a badge of honor.
“Our supreme interests, chiefly the security and unity of Jerusalem, are not the main concern of those anonymous officials who attack us and me personally, as the assault on me comes only because I defend the state of Israel,” he said.
Relations between President Obama and Netanyahu have been strained for some time, U.S. and Israeli officials have said. The announcement of a new round of settlement construction has added to the strain.
The U.S. government issued a sharp condemnation of new building in Palestinian neighborhoods, saying it undermines Israel’s stated interest in achieving peace with the Palestinians.
In another recent case of backbiting, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon in January called Secretary of State John F. Kerry “obsessive and messianic.” When Yaalon came to Washington earlier this month, he reportedly was denied meetings with Vice President Biden, Kerry and national security adviser Susan E. Rice, though he did meet with his counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.