An anonymous U.S. official caused a dustup when he called the Israeli prime minister "chickenshit." Others might have said worse.
Last month, an anonymous U.S. official stirred a tempest in a teapot when he called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a chickenshit” in comments to the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. The insinuation was that while Netanyahu will happily rile up his right-wing base on issues related to Palestine or Iran, he lacks the political courage to take meaningful steps to resolve either conflict.
State Department officials scurried to disavow themselves of the remark. But the incident revealed an increasingly common conclusion in Washington: Netanyahu’s foot-dragging on Middle East peace is not only frustrating for the United States—it’s dangerous.
Once a taboo subject in Washington, the value of the U.S.-Israeli alliance has increasingly come under scrutiny among even leading members of the foreign policy establishment.
As Anthony Cordesman—a Mideast expert at the center-right Center for Strategic and International Studies—observed, “It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States, as well as the United States to Israel, and that it become far more careful about the extent to which it test the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews.”
One would think that such complaints from a key ally and patron would elicit some soul-searching in the Israeli government. Yet instead of charting a new course in his speech at the United Nations last September, Netanyahu fell back on an old, lazy recipe of demonization, equating Hamas with the Islamic State and the Islamic State with Iran. And he continued oft-used delaying tactics, inviting the current coalition of Arab countries fighting the Islamic State to draft a new peace proposal for Israel and the Palestinians—despite his longstanding rejection of the Arab Peace Initiative drafted over 10 years ago by many of those same countries. Officials in the Obama administration were reportedly “unconvinced” that Netanyahu’s proposal was sincere, given his lack of interest in direct talks with the Palestinians themselves.