Game of Chicken: Hostile Words Precede Hostile Action

The Obama administration’s contempt for Israel reached a new low when a senior administration official told Atlantic Monthly  reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickens**t.”  A second senior official called Israeli Prime Minister (and former elite special ops commando) Netanyahu a “coward” for obliging US policy and not bombing Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

I wish I could believe these were just staffers behaving badly. But Goldberg is often the preferred choice to pen deliberate “leaks” the administration wants to disseminate but is too, well, chicken to state directly.  And in fact, the White House has, as of this writing, neither apologized, nor publicly condemned the remark, nor fired the source — all of which should be demanded loudly and clearly by all supporters of Israel — but has merely termed the comments “inappropriate” and “counterproductive.”  Every Beltway insider I spoke with privately identified the same few possible sources, and there is no doubt that the Administration not only knows who said it but approves the message, mild protestations notwithstanding. Indeed public scorn for Israel’s leaders is the calling card of this administration. The latest insult is simply an continuation of the disrespectful, if not intentionally humiliating actions this hostile administration has consistently engaged in.

Still, open malice to an ally is not usually cultivated in a vacuum, especially a week before the US midterm elections.  Outrageous speech often precedes outrageous action, and we need not look far to see what may be coming soon.

First and foremost, Iran negotiations are drawing close to their deadline, and the US will most likely cave to an impotent deal that leaves Iran within months of achieving a weapon, its clear intent, and even during this “courtship” period Iran has thwarted UN inspections.  In yet another abuse of “executive privilege,” President Obama has directly stated his intent to circumvent the need for Congressional approval to suspend sanctions, if a deal is reached.

By calling Netanyahu “chickens**t” and a “coward” for deferring to US policy and refraining from military action to stop Iran, the Administration is preemptively smearing the most credible critic of its disastrous Iran negotiations. This serves to deflect attention from its own imperious governance and deplorable policies, just as it demonstrates just how pointless it is for Israel to submit to US pressure.

A second reason to undermine Netanyahu personally is to punish him for recent statements supporting Jewish building in Jerusalem, even in areas that would never be ceded under any potential agreement. Netanyahu previously complied with the US request to freeze construction in Judea/Samaria, but as the American-sponsored negotiations disintegrated and the Administration has grown more overtly hostile to Israel in both word and deed (airport closing, stopping routine weapons transfer mid-war), Netanyahu has publicly supported building permits and stated “I’m not going to say to Jews not to buy [homes] in Jerusalem.”

The Administration’s reported fury over potential construction of a few hundred homes in an existing Jewish neighborhood is as disturbing as its complete indifference to the recent Palestinian terror attacks in Jerusalem, including the attempted assassination of American Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who seeks Jewish access to holy sites, and the killing of an American baby girl (along with an adult) by a terrorist who drove his car into a crowd. Anger over housing but not over murder? The contemptuous comments are paving the way for more contemptible actions.

Finally, the administration may be signaling a future policy of recognizing a Palestinian state. In his venomous UN speech last September, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas abandoned even the pretense that he will pursue a negotiated peace and indicated that he will soon seek UN recognition of a self-declared “state.”  Several countries have already “recognized” such an entity.  While previously it was unthinkable that the US would not block official UN recognition in the Security Council, many observers now question this assumption and envision Obama slamming the door in Israel’s face as he exits the Oval Office. The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens suggested as much recently, and even Jeffrey Goldberg himself, in the same Atlantic article, entertains the possibility when he states that he “imagine[s] that the US will still try to block such a move”  — implying the opposite is not inconceivable. Many in DC consider it inevitable. Today US officials insult Netanyahu to his face; tomorrow will they stab him in the back at the UN?

Perhaps another purpose of the vulgar insults is to test the strength of the US-Israel bond, including the power of the Jewish communal organizations that shepherd that relationship. Once again, this Administration has spewed it’s greatest hostility on America’s most loyal ally. Certainly  Mahmoud Abbas, who celebrated the recent terror attacks and called for a “day of rage” and violence in Jerusalem, does not attract such ire. Yet, other than ZOA, I could not find a statement by any major Jewish organization calling for firing the officials, or demanding an apology. This has to change, and soon. Continued polite restraint risks more than our dignity.  Israel’s fundamental security is at stake, and both friends and foes will take cues from our response. Israel’s supporters must demand that Israel’s elected leaders be treated with respect, lest the next offense be actions instead of mere words.  And we must mobilize to fight a nuclear Iran and a UN-created Palestinian Arab state before it is too late.

Laura Fein is the Executive Director of ZOA-NJ.  She welcomes your comments at or

About the Author
Laura Fein is a practicing attorney and consultant. She writes on topics concerning Israel, innovation, education, and parenting.
Related Topics
Related Posts