U.S. Denies Crisis With Israel After Reported Netanyahu Insult

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The Obama administration insisted Wednesday there was no crisis in relations with Israel despite a report that quoted an unnamed official using a sharp insult to describe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An unidentified administration official was quoted by The Atlantic on Tuesday saying Israel’s prime minister was "scared to launch wars" and had "no guts." Referring to Netanyahu by his nickname, the official reportedly said: "The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit." Jeffrey Goldberg, the author of the article, said the remark was "representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis."

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters: “Comments like that do not reflect the administration’s view, and we do believe that they are counterproductive.” He stressed that President Barack Obama and Netanyahu are partners who consult often, and that U.S.-Israeli relationship is “as strong as ever.”

Earnest said that the close relationship does not mean the two countries “paper over our differences,” including the American view that Israeli settlement activity is illegitimate and complicates the Middle East peace process.

Netanyahu did not directly address the remark but told Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, that he was "not prepared to make concessions that will endanger our state." He told lawmakers: "It must be understood that our supreme interests, with security and the unity of Jerusalem first and foremost, are not among the top concerns of those anonymous elements that are attacking us and me personally, because the attack on me comes only because I am defending the State of Israel." He added: "I respect and appreciate our deep ties with the U.S."


— Paul Goldman and Alastair Jamieson