JERUSALEM, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was critical of an attack on his character published in an American magazine, saying Wednesday he would defend Israel's interests.
He responded to an article in The Atlantic in which an unidentified U.S. official is quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer with close ties to both Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, offering a withering assessment of Netanyahu.
"The thing about Bibi (a Netanyahu nickname) is, he's a chicken [expletive]. The good thing about Netanyahu is that he's scared to launch wars. 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 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 (each a previous Israeli prime minister). He's got no guts."
Netanyahu, at a memorial ceremony at the Israeli Parliament for an assassinated cabinet minister, angrily refuted the comments.
"I risked my life for my country, and I am not willing to make concessions that will endanger our country. Our paramount interests, first and foremost security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not of vital importance to those same anonymous sources who attack us and me, personally. I am being attacked personally only because I am defending the state of Israel."
The relationship between Israel and the United States has deteriorated in recent years. Israel's plans to accelerate construction of 1,000 homes for Israelis in a sector of Jerusalem claimed by Palestinians for a future capital city, announced last week, have worsened the situation.
"The personal relationship between the American and Israeli leaders is about as bad as it's ever been, probably even worse than we imagine," said Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at Israel's Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
Israeli Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, an ally of Netanyahu, said the published comments "hurt the state of Israel and its citizens."