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US officials dismiss Netanyahu criticism

October 30, 2014 at 2:08 pm

The spokesperson of the US State Department, Jen Psaki, described an American official’s strong criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “inappropriate and counterproductive”.

During Wednesday’s daily press briefing, Psaki said: “I spoke with Secretary [John Kerry] about this this morning, and he certainly feels strongly that a war of words is not productive from either side.”

She noted that Kerry would clarify to Netanyahu when they next speak that this does not represent the State Department’s position; however, she explained that there would not be an apology.

When questioned about the crisis in US-Israel relations, she said: “We express concern and there is disagreement,” but insisted that the US’s relationship with Israel remains strong. “Our security bonds have never been greater and the ties between our nations are unshakeable,” she said.

Writing for the Atlantic magazine, American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg published an explosive article on Tuesday quoting a senior US official as saying that Netanyahu was a “coward” and a “chickenshit” because he is more interested in political gain than peace.

Goldberg warned that relations between the two long-time allies had reached a “full-blown crisis”.

“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he is scared to launch wars … The bad thing about him is that he will not do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he is interested in is protecting himself from political defeat … He is not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he is not [Ariel] Sharon, he is certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts,” one official, reported to be a high-ranking member of the Obama administration, said.

White House spokesperson John Earnest was also at pains to stress that the unnamed official’s comments did “not reflect the personal views of the president of the United States,” noting that Obama is committed, as always, to Israel’s security.

In response to the comments, the Atlantic quoted US National Security Spokesperson Alistair Baskey as saying that US President Barack Obama has “forged an effective partnership” with Netanyahu and the two men consult each other regularly.

According to a subsequent report in the magazine, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice also insisted that, “The relationship is not in crisis,” adding that, “The relationship is actually fundamentally stronger in many respects than it has ever been.”

Responding to the criticism, Netanyahu said: “I will not make concessions that will endanger our country … Our ultimate interests, first and foremost security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not the top priority for those anonymous sources who attack us and me personally.”