Washington responded on Wednesday in unusually strong terms to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s series of provocative remarks about Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration.
Kerry himself called Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday to “protest” Yaalon’s comments, which were “clearly not constructive,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Psaki said, however, that Kerry does not believe Yaalon’s comments “reflect the view of the government of Israel.”
“We were shocked by Moshe Yaalon’s comments, which seriously call into question his commitment to Israel’s relationship with the United States,” a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday night.
“Moreover, this is part of a disturbing pattern in which the Defense Minister disparages the U.S. Administration, and insults its most senior officials.”
Several weeks ago, Ya’alon was called upon to apologize after describing Kerry as “messianic” and “obssessed” in pursuit of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Yaalon said on Tuesday that it’s not only Israel which is concerned about the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Referring to the crises in the Middle East, relations with China and with Russia over Crimea, Obama’s “image in the world is feebleness,” he charged.
“Given the unprecedented commitment that this administration has made to Israel’s security, we are mystified why the Defense Minister seems intent on undermining the relationship,” the U.S. official added.
Sources close to Yaalon say that Washington is trying to delegitimize the Israeli defense minister because he refuses to bow to pressure to appease the Palestinians with concessions.
“The defense minister always stresses the close relationship with the U.S. and its importance, but raises all sorts of strategic issues that he feels are causing damage to the U.S.,” said Yaalon’ defenders. “It didn’t bother anybody in the past, but now he’s become a convenient target because he’s perceived as being a problem regarding the Palestinian issue. In any case, on security, he won’t compromise.”
“Certain elements in Washington define Yaalon as extreme, as the hard nut in the Israeli government,” said a Yaalon adviser. “They’ve been trying to damage his legitimacy and popularity among the public, but it isn’t working.”
The advisor maintained that the defense minister’s relations with his American counterpart, defense secretary Chuck Hagel, are excellent, as are the relations between the Israeli and American security systems.