TEL AVIV, Israel, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- A political cartoon published Thursday by Hebrew daily Haaretz incited international controversy with its depiction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu piloting a plane labeled "Israel" toward a tower flying the American flag, intended to evoke the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Amos Biderman, the artist who authored the comic, told The Times of Israel the image was intended to imply Netanyahu is leading the country to "a disaster in Israel-US relations on the scale of 9/11," pointing to the Prime Minister's "arrogance" and his handling of settlement construction in Jerusalem as poor diplomacy.
The cartoon was composed and published in response to an article in The Atlantic Tuesday that quoted an anonymous source inside the White House as calling Netanyahu a "chicken[expletive]" criticizing the Prime Minister as "cowardly" for his handling of relations with Palestine.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said those comments do not reflect the administration's views on Israel and Netanyahu defended himself during a public appearance the following day, saying he is concerned with Israeli interests.
Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Israel have been deteriorating in recent years as Israel has struggled and at times failed to navigate its troubled relationship with Palestine without alienating the international community.
The announcement of plans to construct a settlement of 1000 homes for Israelis in a section of Jerusalem considered territory claimed by Palestinians against the Obama administration's objections further strained relations already fraught with tension. Despite its timeliness, however, Biderman's lampoon was not well received on social media, with commenters calling the comic "tasteless" and "revolting" and "filth."
Israeli Foreign Ministry official Paul Hirschson chimed in with a harsh critique.
Others called the image "loaded" and "provocative." Still others attempted to explain the intended humor and defended the political commentary.
Political commentary and criticism aside, the cartoon's shocking imagery has deeply offended audiences, leaving many so incensed they're unable to appreciate any satirical merit.
Echoing these sentiments, Vox wrote: "it so breaches the very basics of good taste that it is astounding."