We hate giving Jeffrey Goldberg credit, but he’s done it again, established the Talking Point in the conflict for the week, and maybe longer. And it’s his pottymouth again. Last time it was when he interviewed Hillary Clinton attacking Obama for the foreign-policy mantra, “Don’t do stupid shit.” This time he got a senior Obama official to call Benjamin Netanyahu “chickenshit.”
The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.
The comment has stung Netanyahu and maybe hurt him politically. The damage was intentional, says former White House aide Ari Fleischer: “As ex WH staffer, I can safely say staff wouldn’t publicly call someone ‘chickensh*t’ if POTUS hadn’t privately said something similar 1st.” Iranian media has leaped on the allegation, put it in a headline. So has the Jewish News Service.
Chickenshit is trending on Twitter. Everyone thinks they can be scatological. Us too:
White House attempts to turn "chicken shit" into chicken salad http://t.co/YkfUPqXsqI
— Mondoweiss (@Mondoweiss) October 29, 2014
Goldberg said this wasn’t the first time he heard Netanyahu called names in the Obama White House:
Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and “Aspergery.” (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.) But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a “chickenshit.” I thought I appreciated the implication of this description, but it turns out I didn’t have a full understanding. . .
“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. “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.”
I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. This official agreed that Netanyahu is a “chickenshit” on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat.
Goldberg’s article declared “The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here” and to borrow a phrase, the Netanyahu administration is going apeshit. Its finance minister is doubling down on Diaspora Jewish loyalty to Israel, saying that the prime minister represents “Jews worldwide.” Haaretz reports:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office launched at counter-offensive at the Obama administration Wednesday, after a senior U.S. official was quoted as saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “a chickenshit prime minister,” who only cares about his political survival.
“Netanyahu will continue to uphold the security interests of Israel and the historical rights of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, and no amount of pressure will change that,” Netanyahu’s office said in response to the remark, the latest in the ongoing crisis in U.S.-relations, which was cited in a report by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. . . .
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett responded harshly to the interview, saying that “the prime minister is not a private person, but the leader of the Jewish state and the Jewish world. Such severe curse words against the Israeli prime minister are harmful to millions of Israeli citizens and Jews worldwide.”
Israel’s Channel 10 reports that Israeli officials suspect Obama Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes is the source of the quote. The Obama administration is now looking to clean up the mess. From Foreign Policy:
The White House is in damage control after an anonymous Obama administration official was quoted in the Atlantic calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit” while a second told the magazine that the Israeli leader was a “coward” when it came to Iran.
“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 spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement.
According to congressional sources, White House officials are reaching out to key lawmakers that deal with the U.S-Israel relationship to deny that the bruising quote came from the White House — leaving the explicit suggestion that a State Department official was responsible for the remark. White House officials told lawmakers that press secretary Josh Earnest would denounce the quote at today’s daily briefing.
“They’re reaching out to us and letting us know that they’re outraged,” a House aide tells Foreign Policy.
But was the damage to Netanyahu intentional? Fleischer again: “In world w Iran, No. K, Syria, ISIS, Hamas, is there a leader Admin called “chickensh*t”? Israel. Tells all u need 2know re O’s worldview.” The issue is sure to be all over today’s press briefing at State.
Roland Nikles says that the controversy shows the emperor has no clothes, Netanyahu has been politically hurt.
“Leah Rabin, the late widow of assassinated premier Yitzhak Rabin, used words such as ‘nightmare,’ ‘monstrosity,’ ‘corrupt’ and ‘liar’ to describe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in letters she wrote over a decade ago that have recently been obtained by Haaretz,” says Amir Oren in Haaretz. Here is the late (she died in 2000) Leah Rabin in her own words:
“I hope, pray, that the days of this government are numbered. Benjamin Netanyahu is a corrupt individual, a contentious liar who is ruining everything that is good about our society. He is breaking it to bits, and in the future, we will have to rebuild it all over.”
More Israel supporters getting bent out of shape: John Schindler, re Chickenshitgate:
In diplomatic terms, this is the equivalent of giving a wedgie to a close ally, and is conduct beneath banana republics, much less a great power. But this is exactly the sort of petulant, faux-macho acting out I’ve come to expect from Obama’s profoundly dysfunctional National Security Council.
It will be a fine day when
@JeffreyGoldberg‘s nose is surgically removed from Obama’s colon so he can breathe properly again.