Only the people of Israel can decide who will represent their best interests, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday in remarks directed at President Barack Obama a week prior to the general election.
“I think everyone knows that the citizens of Israel are the only ones who can decide who will faithfully represent the vital interests of the state,” he said.
His remarks came in response to an article by prominent Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in which he quoted Obama as repeatedly saying that, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”
Obama, he wrote, appeared to see Netanyahu as a “political coward” who is completely “captive to the settler lobby,” and whose ongoing “settlement” activity was moving Israel
“down a path toward near total isolation.”
Goldberg, who is himself a vocal critic of Prime Minister Netanyahu, maintained that Obama “told several people that sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.
Although the U.S. would not cut off its aid to Israel, Obama was not likely to “waste his time on Mideast peace” and the Jewish state could soon notice a “significant shift” on the diplomatic front, he wrote.
Senior Likud MKs reacted furiously, accusing the U.S. president of “gross interference” in the upcoming election.
“This is gossip a journalist wrote, and the facts suggest that the opposite is true,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who heads Likud’s response team. “Israelis expect their prime minister not to give in to pressure, even if it would give them applause in the United States.”
Netanyahu told reporters on a tour of an army base near Gaza that, “Over the last four years, we have faced tremendous pressure and we will continue to stand up for the vital interests of Israel and its security.”
“We will do everything necessary to defend the security of the citizens of Israel in this area as well as in other areas,” the prime minister said, in remarks broadcast by public radio.
Until now, there had been no official response to the article, which on Wednesday dominated national headlines.