The Obama administration is pissed off at Israel and John Kerry called Binyamin Netanyahu today to vent his anger at the Israeli defense minister’s public criticism of the U.S.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said something many of us were already thinking. Speaking at Tel Aviv University on Monday, he displayed deep disappointment with the way U.S. President Barack Obama is handling important foreign policy issues:
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I heard voices of disappointment in the region. I was in Singapore and heard disappointment about China getting stronger and the US getting weaker. Look what’s happening in Ukraine, where the United States is demonstrating weakness, unfortunately.
Ya’alon scolded Obama for not being proactive in attacking terrorism:
If you sit and wait at home, the terrorism will come again. Even if you hunker down, it will come. This is a war of civilizations. If your image is feebleness, it doesn’t pay in the world. Nobody will replace the United States as global policeman. I hope the United States comes to its senses. If it doesn’t, it will challenge the world order, and the United States is the one that will suffer.
The Defense Minister also warned that Iran is snookering the President:
We had thought the ones who should lead the campaign against Iran is the United States. But at some stage the United States entered into negotiations with them, and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better. Therefore, on this matter, we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves.
That last quote is no surprise; Israel has always known that when push comes to shove she can only depend on herself. In fact it’s been a long-stated IDF policy.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Ya’alon’s remarks were “not constructive” and “inconsistent” with the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel—which is accurate even though what Ya’alon said is the complete truth:
Psaki repeated Obama and Kerry’s oft-stated position that the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security is “unshakable,” outlined several main elements of the longstanding U.S.-Israeli defense relationship. And she noted that Netanyahu himself has spoken of an “unprecedented level” of security cooperation between the countries.
“The comments of the defense minister are completely inconsistent with that,” Psaki told reporters. “So, it is certainly confusing to us why Defense Minister Ya’alon would continue his pattern of making comments that don’t accurately represent the scope of our close partnership on a range of security issues and on the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel.”
Truth be told Moshe Ya’alon has a history of being undiplomatic, for example his recent comments about Kerry being messianic and obsessive earned a trip to Netanyahu’s woodshed.
His Kerry statements weren’t the first time his mouth got him in trouble. When he was Vice Prime Minister in August 2009 Ya’alon said:
We become accustomed to Arabs being permitted to live everywhere, in the Negev, Galilee, Nablus, Jenin, and [on the other hand] there are areas where Jews are not allowed to live. We caused this.” He also stated that, “regarding the issue of the settlements, in my opinion Jews can and should live everywhere in the Land of Israel. Now, … first of all, every settlement needs to get the approval of the authorities, and what goes up on the spot, in contradiction to these decisions and so on is not legitimate. It’s against the law”.
Later, after the Jewish equivalent of a “come to Jesus” meeting with PM Netanyahu Ya’alon retracted parts of his statements and said that he “recognized the importance of democratic discourse and respecting other opinions.”
Ya’alon’s comments may very well have been what many in the government of Israel (and citizens of the U.S.) were thinking. But one needs to understand while many might agree with the sentiments; he speaks for himself only, not for the government. Some observers in the U.S. will see his words as a suggestion that an Israeli attack on Iran is imminent—but that is simply not true.
Israel values its partnership with the United States and, even if in the end it has to go it alone and attack Iran’s nuclear program. And while the IDF still trains for an attack on the Iranian nukes Israel will never attack while the United States is negotiating with the rogue nation.
In the end all Ya’alon’s words and Kerry’s complaint really means is that the Defense Minister is about to make another trip to Bibi’s woodshed and that President Obama can’t handle the truth.
UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Ya’alon apologized:
In a phone conversation with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on
Wednesday night, Ya’alon said that his comments “were not intended to
express opposition, criticism or offense to the United States,”
adding that maintaining strong ties with the United States is Israel’s