WASHINGTON (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was attacked by an anonymous Obama administration official for “defending the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu in a speech Wednesday marking the assassination of Rehavaam Zeevi, a government minister killed during the second intifada, appeared eager to push back against the official who told The Atlantic in a story that appeared online Tuesday that the prime minister was cowardly.
“I have been on the battlefield many times,” Netanyahu said. “I have risked my life for the country and I am not prepared to make concessions that will endanger our state.”
The senior administration official, speaking to Jeffrey Goldberg, was characterizing administration anger at Netanyahu for bypassing the Obama administration in his appeals to Congress and the U.S. media to abort a potential nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers that Netanyahu believes is dangerous, and also for announcing plans for new building in eastern Jerusalem.
The official told Goldberg that Netanyahu was “chickenshit.”
“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,” Netanyahu said.
“If I did not defend the State of Israel, if I did not vigorously uphold our national and security interests, they would not attack me,” he said. “And despite all the attacks against me, I will continue to defend our state.”
Netanyahu in his speech noted Israel’s popularity among Americans.
“Since the foundation of our state, we have had disagreements with the U.S. and we will yet have them,” he said. “But this is not at the expense of the deep ties between our peoples and countries. And we see this again and again, including this year, in the rise in support for the State of Israel among the American public; support that has reached an all-time high.”