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Middle East Unrest

Diplomatic ‘Spat’: White House Distances Itself From Netanyahu Comments

The President Not the Source of Harsh Netanyahu Comments 1:28

The White House is still attempting to be diplomatic — at least publicly —when it comes to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled visit to speak in front of the United States Congress in March.

This morning on Meet the Press, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough responded to an article in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, from Friday that quoted a senior U.S. official as saying “[Netanyahu] spat in our face publicly.”

The source quoted in the article went on to say that the prime minister “ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”

McDonough denied that the anonymous source was him or President Obama, “I can guarantee that it's not me, not the president, and not what we believe.” “We think that, as a general matter, we, the United States, has stayed out of internal politics in the countries of our closest allies,” he said.

McDonough also said that the U.S. has a strategy in Yemen, reiterating what the president said early this morning in India. But he admitted that they are “worried” about the political unrest in the country that has been an ally in rooting out al Qaeda.

“We've got to make sure that we're developing the institutions, working with the Yemenis, so that we have security forces that can take the fight to AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) and to others associated with them,” McDonough said. He continued, “So that's exactly what the strategy is designed to do. Without, as the president said ... relying on occupying armies or huge numbers of U.S. troops.”

While there has been a great deal of criticism lobbed at the White House for not using the moniker “radical Islam” when referring to terrorist groups, McDonough defended the administration’s choice of words. “What we simply do not believe, Chuck, is that they should somehow be seen as representatives of Islam,” McDonough said. “They are not. It's one of the world's great religions.”

He continued, “The overwhelming majority of Muslims do not abide by this hateful ideology. And so we decided not to give them any kind of belief that somehow they deserve that title.”

WH Chief of Staff: U.S. 'Worried' about Yemeni Political Situation 1:32
— Dale Armbruster and Shawna Thomas