Economy Minister Naftali Bennett declared his support for Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Saturday night, although he skirted the ongoing friction between Ya’alon and the Obama administration and instead focused on domestic criticism of the defense minister.
“The media onslaught against the defense minister and the IDF brass is unnecessary, and even more importantly, it’s wrong,” he said in a statement posted to his Facebook page, adding that Ya’alon “is an excellent defense minister who speaks his mind, even if his opinions aren’t the same as those of this or that pundit, and that’s a good thing.”
The outspoken defense minister has had several recent run-ins with officials in Washington over disparaging remarks he made about Secretary of State John Kerry and the US foreign policy.
In his statement Bennett – himself a sometimes biting critic of US efforts vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process – made no mention of Washington. He illustrated his statement with a screenshot of an article on the news website Ynet that accused Ya’alon and IDF generals of “complacency and arrogance.”
On Friday, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that the US was still waiting for a formal apology from Ya’alon for cutting remarks last week in which he accused the Obama administration of being weak on Iran.
She said that the US was “disappointed with the lack of apology” from Ya’alon, despite the fact that he spoke with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday, and issued a statement indicating regret over his statements then.
“We still have remaining concerns about Ya’alon’s pattern of behavior,” she said. “I think we clearly expressed our displeasure by his offensive comments and an apology would be a natural next step.”