As the crisis between Israel and the US deepens, senior American officials continue to express "red-hot anger" at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his administration. "The thing about Bibi is, he's chickenshit," said one US official to the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg in a damning report published Tuesday.
Goldberg writes that over the years Washington officials have described Netanyahu as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, and pompous – but none of these insults were as surprising, he says, as "chickenshit."
One official told Goldberg that the Israeli leader was a "coward" on Iran and that the Obama administration no longer believes Netanyahu's threats of a preemptive airstrike on Tehran's nuclear facilities.
“It’s too late for him to do anything. 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," the official said in the Atlantic report.
Goldberg writes that in the two recent US election cycles, the Obama administration was concerned that Netanyahu would follow through on his threat of a strike. But, the official told the Atlantic, "The feeling is now that Bibi's bluffing."
"He's not Begin at Osirak," added the official, referencing the 1981 air strike by former prime minister Menachem Begin on an Iraqi nuclear reactor. Goldberg further writes that both former and current administration officials have at times told him that Netanyahu leads as if he is the mayor of Jerusalem.
One senior US official stressed to Goldberg that, unlike many of Israel's iconic leaders, Netanyahu was afraid of taking action. "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."
The official emphasized to the Atlantic journalist that "the good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars," but that – in opposition to the Obama administration's goals in the Middle East – " 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.