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Netanyahu hits back at Obama: I know what’s best for Israel

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A day after US columnist Jeffrey Goldberg quoted US President Barack Obama as saying that Israel under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not know what is in its own best interest, Netanyahu visited the Gaza border Wednesday, was told that December was the quietest month in the last 12 years, and essentially replied to Obama: "Yes I do."
"I think everyone understands that only Israel\’s citizens will be the ones to determine who faithfully represents Israel\’s vital interests," Netanyahu said on a visit to an army base near Gaza in his first direct response to Obama\’s reported criticism. "Over the last four years we stood up against strong pressure, and I will continue to do so for Israel\’s security.
Netanyahu, who was joined on his visit by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and top IDF brass, was told that according to the security establishment\’s figures, December was the quietest month in the south since January 2001.
"I am very impressed by the advanced technological means, and even more so by our young soldiers operating them here," he said. "The IDF, Shin Bet, and security force are doing very important work here. They are maintaining the quiet which has been kept since Operation Pillar of Defense."
Netanyahu said that no one had any delusions, and that the quiet could be shattered at any time. But, he said, the IDF was prepared for any scenario. "We will do everything necessary to defend Israel\’s citizens here and everywhere else."
Senior Likud officials had already accused Obama on Tuesday of leaking sharp criticism Netanyahu’s leadership in order to sway voters in next Tuesday’s election.
Sources close to Netanyahu responded carefully, saying that the prime minister would continue to protect the country’s vital national security interests in the coming government that he would lead. The sources noted that Obama had said Israeli-US defense and security cooperation were at unprecedented levels, which was evident in US support for Israeli missile defense systems and diplomatic backing during Operation Pillar of Defense.
But Likud officials accused Obama of “gross interference” in the Israeli election and said the president was “taking revenge” against Netanyahu for his perceived intervention in the November US election on behalf of unsuccessful Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The officials said Obama had been swayed against Netanyahu by President Shimon Peres and former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Goldberg told The Jerusalem Post that he was amused by the reactions of Israeli politicians, especially accusations that he had conspired with the Israeli Left to maximize damage to Netanyahu. He said what he had written was consistent with statements Obama had made in the past about the need for Israel’s friends to hold up a mirror and tell the truth.
“In the administration, they saw that after Obama supported Israel in the Gaza conflict and at the UN, the next day Netanyahu wanted to build a new settlement in E1, and they threw up their hands in frustration,” Goldberg said. “I have picked up this chatter about the White House over the past two weeks, so I wrote it. I’m a journalist, writing about what’s happening, not trying to steer an Israeli election.”

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