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US official calls Netanyahu "chickenshit"; Israeli lawmaker calls US a third world country

Moshe Feiglin.
Moshe Feiglin.
(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Last night, the Atlantic published a bombshell story about US-Israel relations. In it, a senior Obama administration official calls Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "chickenshit," among other things. Now, a member of Netanyhau's Likud party is hitting back, saying that "under Obama, the US has deteriorated to the cultural and essential level of a third world country."

Here's the full quote from Member of the Knesset Moshe Feiglin, leader of the party's hard-right Manhigut Yehudit faction:

I fundamentally disagree with PM Netanyahu on many issues - including those issues over which the US has criticized the PM in the past. But if America does not officially distance itself from yesterday's personal attack against Prime Minister Netanyahu (who represents all the citizens of Israel) we can conclude that under Obama, the US has deteriorated to the cultural and essential level of a third world country. Its future is already behind it.

It's not totally clear whether Feiglin is arguing that the US has already "deteriorated to the cultural and essential level of a third world country" because of President Obama's leadership, and that a lack of apology to Netanyahu will prove this once and for all, or if he's suggesting that American society will somehow collapse overnight if Obama doesn't apologize. Either way, it's very strange to claim that Obama and Netanyahu's personal relationship somehow defines the state of American domestic society.

Now, Feiglin is notoriously extreme. He supports annexing the West Bank and Gaza and, during the Gaza war, proposed forcing the Palestinian population into makeshift camps for the conflict's duration (check out how he characterizes that plan on CNN). So this isn't really representative of Israeli public opinion. But the angry outburst illustrates just how unpopular Obama is on the Israeli right — and how, despite the fundamentally close nature of the US-Israeli alliance, relations between the two governments can get deeply strained.

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