A Democratic senator blasted the senior administration official’s anonymous comments to The Atlantic calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit” and “coward,” saying the White House needs to hold the guilty party responsible.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) issued a statement this afternoon stressing that “outlandish remarks made by anonymous sources leave scars that mask the truth of America’s relationship with Israel: we have no greater ally in the Middle East.”
“I’ve just spent two days in New York at the UN meeting with diplomats, including the Israelis who thanked me profusely for all the United States has done to support their efforts,” said Cardin, co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission. “The truth is that Israel has one and only one reliable ally that exercises its leadership at the UN to support its friend Israel and that is the United States. President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu understand the strategic importance and the special bond between our two countries.”
However, the senator continued, “the only parties that benefit from anonymous sources making inappropriate comments about one of America’s closest allies are those who want to weaken the unified, bipartisan support for Israel in both the legislative and executive branches of our government.”
“The leaks and side-shows need to end; those responsible should be held accountable,” Cardin said.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday he doesn’t “know of any effort” underway to find or punish the official who insulted Netanyahu.
“Again, there are anonymous comments like this that are shared with reporters like yourself on a pretty regular basis, and what we have found to be the most effective tactic is to help all of you understand the proper context for those comments,” he said.
“In this case, I’m not sure there is a proper context for those comments, because they are so directly in opposition to the true view and policy of this administration.”
Earnest said President Obama had no plans to call Netanyahu to apologize, and press secretary Jen Psaki said at the State Department today that they were “working to schedule a call” with Secretary of State John Kerry.
“I can assure anybody who thinks that that the president and the secretary of state don’t feel — feel that those comments were inappropriate and counter-productive and they’ll feel that way next Wednesday as well,” Psaki said of speculation that the administration is holding back open criticism of Netanyahu until after midterm elections.
The State Department has denied the remarks came from one of their people, and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said the White House “assured me that the pejorative statements were not made by anyone at the White House.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called it “unprofessional for administration officials to air their dirty laundry in such a public way.”
“I am getting tired of hearing about the leaks and denials,” Engel said. “This ought to be the last time we hear of such talk because it is getting to a point where nobody believes the denials anymore.”