Those are just a few of the words Obama administration officials have used to describe Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Jeffrey Goldberg, a deeply-sourced reporter at The Atlantic who covers the Middle East.
The officials’ displeasure towards Netanyahu stems from disagreements over how to handle Palestinian peace talks, as well Netanyahu’s own growing frustration with President Barack Obama, Goldberg reported Tuesday.
Ironically, the digs also stem, in part, from Netanyahu’s decision to forego preemptive strikes against Iran when it was threatening to continue its nuclear program.
“The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” an unnamed Obama administration official told Goldberg, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official told Goldberg. The Obama administration is pleased the Israelis did not launch strikes against Iran, though the threat of Israeli force was used to bring allies into line to back sanctions against the country.
“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 official asserted. Comparing Netanyahu to previous Israeli prime ministers and saying Netanyahu only cares about his political future, the official said, “He’s got no guts.”
Netanyahu is a former soldier in the Israel Defense Forces and leader in Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s special forces.
Another official agreed with the first’s official’s assessment of Netanyahu, but used another descriptor: “coward.”
“It’s too late for him to do anything,” the official said in reference to the aborted strikes against Iran.
“Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late,” said the official, talking about Israel’s pullback from launching preemptive strikes against Iran.
“The feeling now is that Bibi’s bluffing,” the official told Goldberg.
The cooling is due “in good part,” according to Goldberg, to Netanyahu’s statements that he has “written off” the Obama administration. Should a nuclear deal with Iran be reached in the future, Netanyahu plans to communicate it directly to the American public and to Congress, Goldberg reported.
In Goldberg’s assessment, tensions between the two countries are at their highest in recent memory.
“Israel and the U.S., like all close allies, have disagreed from time to time on important issues. But I don’t remember such a period of sustained and mutual contempt,” Goldberg wrote.