President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look out a window before their lunch at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO / PETE SOUZA)
Jeffrey Goldberg, the diplomatic correspondent for The Atlantic, spoke to Army Radio on Thursday morning about the splash he made in the headlines this week when he reported that an official in US President Barack Obama's administration called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "chicken shit."
Asked about the White House's semi-denial of the comments, Goldberg said he wasn't surprised that they would distance themselves from the anonymous official.
"That's a completely normal course of events, someone tells the truth and then because the truth isn't diplomatic, they have to say they weren't authorized to speak," he said.
Goldberg continued and said he has talked to dozens of people, especially in recent months, about the relationship between Israel and the US. Many of those he spoke to are officials close to Obama.
"The level of frustration [in the White House] is incredibly high, possibly higher than ever, from the Washington side, and people are boiling over," he said.
For that reason, he wasn't shocked by the comments made about Netanyahu.
"There are a lot of hard feelings about Netanyahu. It's not even about Netanyahu, it's about the people around him, members of cabinet. Not even about things said, but mainly about things done."
He said Obama believes Netanyahu is a smart, tough negotiator, but that the President believes he doesn't "spend his political capital in a particularly risky or brave way." Goldberg drew these conclusions after his many personal talks with the President.
"He means, here is a powerful prime minister with strong coalition who won't take the steps to make a compromise with the Palestinians because he fears for his own political self."
Goldberg said Netanyahu has "written off" Obama, but Obama has not "written off" Netanyahu, despite being close. He says that Secretary of State John Kerry is the "last man standing" and could still come through with a peace deal.
The sense is, Goldberg said, that "Israel needs the US more than the US needs Israel," and that "there is a feeling, especially when it comes to the defense minister, that they've been treated disrespectfully."
The veteran reporter claimed that the situation could still be remedied if Netanyahu was willing to make compromises, especially regarding the settlements.
"For it to be reversed, from the American standpoint, they would have to see the Israeli government take some of the steps Obama has been asking for for years."
Goldberg said "provocative moves" are the "core of their [Obama officials] anxiety," and that the settlements are the "key sources of tension."
He concluded by saying: "Unless Netanyahu is able to take control from some of the right wing members of [his] cabinet, no, I don't think things will get better."