Ynet, the website of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, quoted a "senior Israeli official" on Thursday saying that "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not really willing to move forward with the negotiations," referring to the current talks with the Palestinian Authority.
The official told Ynet that Netanyahu "should have released the Palestinian prisoners [all] at once" rather than "in exchange for Gilad Shalit. He caused great damage for Mahmoud Abbas with his conduct. He only wants to preserve his status in his party and everyone knows what it looks like."
Ynet noted that while it is not unusual for an Israeli official to criticise Netanyahu's policies, "Israel's political state is once again evoking strong reactions within Israeli leadership."
According to the newspaper, the Israeli official is well-connected within Israeli political circles and thus aware of the government's secrets and sensitive issues. During his interview with Ynet, he strongly criticised several of Netanyahu's policies, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, US-Israeli relations and the Iranian nuclear programme.
While Netanyahu's government "is attempting to minimize the importance of political criticism from Europe and calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel," Ynet explained that: "the top political echelon is admitting that these are issues that may dramatically hurt Israel. The year 2014 is marked as the key time in this sense, and it is feared that the calls to boycott Israel will only expand."
The official described Israel as being in a more sensitive and turbulent condition now than it was in 1948, warning that Netanyahu's conduct is "leading to sanctions and boycotting".
The official also said that Israel's main concern is not armed conflict, but rather the impact of sanctions and boycott on its economy: "A UN resolution is not needed in order to impose sanctions on us or boycott Israeli products. It is sufficient for one country to start doing it and then it spreads across Europe. We are a country that exports, and in light of the situation with the Palestinians and the continued occupation, we are seen as an apartheid state. A boycott of Israel is the most dangerous thing that exists today. The deterioration [of the situation] can be very rapid."
According to Ynet, Netanyahu is so worried about this issue that he recently focused much attention on preventing Israel from getting removed from the Horizon 2020 project.
"The Europeans must take a stance, and they want it to be a moral one. This position sides with the Palestinians – they live under occupation and Israel is the occupier," the official told Ynet. He added that he no longer believes in Netanyahu's willingness to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, despite his statements to that effect. Netanyahu simply "wants the Palestinians to agree with his views and his opinions", an approach that precludes any room for compromise.
On Iran, the Israeli official said that as a result of Netanyahu's "outcries", Iran has now become a "missile superpower, second only to the US", even though the wider public has not been made aware of this fact.
The official reasoned that as a result of Netanyahu's frequent threats, Iran has worked on developing its missile capabilities, which are now considered among the most advanced in the world: "Why does [Netanyahu] have to shout all the time that Israel will attack, what good will that do? Israel's second strike capabilities should have been made clear to Iran and he should have clarified that if something happens – Iran will disappear. But instead, he decided to threaten and shout, prompting Iran's development of missile capabilities that they didn't previously have."
With regard to Israel's relations with the US, the official revealed that US President Barack Obama and his administration are furious over Netanyahu's conduct on the Iran issue.
He also pointed out that support for Israel among the American public is declining: "The African-American population sees what's happening and observes the never ending critique that Netanyahu and his allies launch against Obama and they are starting to lose their patience. Netanyahu's conduct in the US is in accordance to what was relevant there ten years ago."
The official accused Netanyahu of failing to understand Obama and the US because he is clinging to the Republicans, even though the party is struggling to mobilise voters and win elections.
The US leadership "is no longer as white as it once was and Netanyahu refuses to understand that," the Israeli official told Ynet. "This causes damage to Israel, to its status and to support of the State. Netanyahu constantly wants to be Churchill – he quotes him all the time – but in the modern world, it is better to be Nelson Mandela or the new Pope that has taken over the world with a storm. These are not Churchill's times," the official warned.