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October 29, 2014 11:53 am

White House Distances Itself From ‘Chickenshit’ Insult Leveled at Netanyahu, Stops Short of Apology

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Prime Minister Netanyahu during an interview with The Algemeiner.

The White House has issued a cautious criticism of the anonymous Obama administration official who called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit” in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, but stopped well short of an outright apology.

“Certainly, that’s not the administration’s view, and we think such comments are inappropriate and counter-productive,” National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey told The Hill. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and the president have forged an effective partnership, and consult closely and frequently, including earlier this month when the president hosted the prime minister in the Oval Office.”

There was no indication that the White House would either name the official who made the remark, nor issue a full apology to Netanyahu for insulting him with various epithets, including the word “coward.”

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told The Algemeiner that he “welcomed” Baskey’s statement, “which appropriately describes the comments as ‘inappropriate’ and certainly ‘counter-productive.'”

Hoenlein continued: “It’s not just the damage done to US-Israel relations at this sensitive time, but also how countries in the region read and interpret such comments. There is also the question of the follow-up to this statement, meaning what action will be taken to address those who made such damaging comments, which are clearly deliberately intended to harm the US-Israel relationship.”

In an email to The Algemeiner, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League who was quoted in Goldberg’s story, said: “We welcome the White House’s distancing themselves from the inappropriate characterizations of the prime minister of Israel. It does a disservice to the bilateral relationship which, despite differences from time to time, has served the national security interests of both countries and the quest for peace and freedom globally.”

Foxman continued: “The White House statement should bring closure to this issue.”

Mort Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, called on the administration to fire the official responsible for the remark. “We urge the administration to determine who this disgraceful individual is, and not only apologize for him but  fire him immediately,” Klein told The Algemeiner. “It is deeply troubling that this administration has created an atmosphere where such comments can be made.” Klein also slammed the “administration’s constant reckless and inappropriate criticisms of Israel, while embracing and embracing the extremist anti-peace dictator [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas.”

Leading Middle East analysts sought to frame the insulting remarks about Netanyahu in a wider context. “Obama has fallen out with all of America’s traditional allies in the region. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, to name just three allies, are all experiencing historically difficult relations with Washington,” Michael Doran, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Algemeiner. “Why? Because Obama has abandoned the traditional role of protecting its alliance system against the rival system headed by Iran. Instead, he has worked to bring Iran into the regional security architecture through the back door, and has failed to work with its allies on a unified approach to the Iranian nuclear program. Vice President Joseph Biden recently summed up the ethos of the administration when he said, in public, ‘our allies are the problem.'”

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