So says Jeffrey Goldberg of the The Atlantic, who claims the insulting comment came from a senior administration official whose name he is not at liberty to divulge. “This comment,” Goldberg goes on to write, “is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis.”
He does not explain how he knows what goes on behind Israel’s closed doors, but since he never shares the name of his interlocutor at the White House, the reader is free to draw his own conclusions about the credibility of the reporter and the report.
The comment was made, we learn later in the article, with respect to Netanyahu’s threat to launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. “It’s too late for him to do anything,” the official is quoted as saying.
Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.
A second unnamed official is quoted as explaining, “The feeling now is that Bibi’s bluffing. He’s not Begin at Osirak.”
Let’s assume for the moment that Goldberg’s report accurately sums up confidences shared with him by members of the Obama administration. Goldberg has a partisan (liberal) motivation for persuading readers the put-down is well deserved. He writes:
The belief that Netanyahu’s threat to strike is now an empty one has given U.S. officials room to breathe in their ongoing negotiations with Iran. You might think that this new understanding of Netanyahu as a hyper-cautious leader would make the administration somewhat grateful. Sober-minded Middle East leaders are not so easy to come by these days, after all. But on a number of other issues, Netanyahu does not seem sufficiently sober-minded.
Goldberg is certainly free to draw his own conclusions, which are furthermore protected by his First Amendment rights. But his willingness to share this characterization without any contextual reference to Obama’s own acts of sheer cowardice on the international stage (read: his “red lines” drawn in invisible ink) speaks more to the reporter’s own blindered view than it does to any perceived limitations in the Israeli prime minister.