Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on record for the first time Wednesday since it was revealed an Obama administration official had referred to him as a “chickens**t.”
The Jerusalem Post reports Netanyahu defended himself against the insulting accusation during a speech before the Israeli legislature.
“I am being attacked because I am willing to defend the State of Israel,” he said from the podium.
The attack Netanyahu referenced was a quote attributed only to a “senior Obama administration official” in an article by Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic.
“The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickens**t,” the official told Goldberg, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
Goldberg went on to explain the insult, writing that the opinion among many administration officials is that Netanyahu lacks the courage needed for his position.
“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official reportedly explained. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not (Yitzhak) Rabin, he’s not (Ariel) Sharon, he’s certainly no (Menachem) Begin. He’s got no guts.”
Another senior official reportedly told Goldberg that Netanyahu was a “coward” when it came to confronting the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat.
In Tuesday’s remarks Netanyahu attempted to distance himself from the accusations.
“The safety of Israel is not important to those who attack me anonymously and personally,” he said. “They're attacking me because I stand for our safety and our security interests.”
The remarks from Obama administration officials, some say, could signal an definitive cooling of relations between the two countries that have been strong allies for decades.
But the White House sought to distance itself from the remarks earlier this week.
“Certainly the comments in the article do not represent the administration's view, and we think such comments are inappropriate and counter-productive,” Alistair Baskey, a representative for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement quoted by Foreign Policy magazine.
Although on the defensive, Netanyahu also signaled that relations could be patched up as he praised the longstanding relationship between the countries.
“I laud the deep connection we have with the United States,” he said. “We have more support from the American people than ever, and our strategic ties continue.”