US ‘disappointed’ at lack of apology from Ya’alon

Despite defense minister’s penitent call to Chuck Hagel, State Dept. still has concerns over Ya’alon’s ‘pattern of behavior’

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (photo credit:Flash90)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (photo credit:Flash90)

The US is still waiting for a formal apology from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for disparaging comments he made on Monday, in which he accused the Obama administration of being weak on Iran.

State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday 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.”

Israel’s Channel 2 quoted a senior, unnamed American source complaining about Ya’alon’s “insulting and disappointing” comments about figures in the administration.

The same report suggested that the Obama administration, in keeping the dispute alive, was trying to “delegitimize” Ya’alon, who holds hawkish positions on dealing with the Palestinians. The defense minister said in a TV interview last weekend that Mahmoud Abbas was “not a partner” for a viable permanent accord and that he did not expect to see peace in his lifetime.

According to a statement issued by Ya’alon’s office, he told Hagel on Wednesday that he had no intention of harming the US or ties with it. The ostensible apology was Ya’alon’s second in two months for remarks knocking the Obama administration.

US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki. (screen capture: YouTube)
US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki. (screen capture: YouTube)

“In my statements, there was no antagonism or criticism or intent to harm the United States or [Israel’s] relations with it,” he said. “The strategic relationship between the two countries as well as the personal relationship and mutual interests are of utmost importance. I value the relationship at all levels, between Israel and the United States in general and the security establishment in particular.”

Ya’alon on Monday had questioned the US administration’s commitment to Israel’s security, saying Israel would have to act alone to thwart Tehran’s nuclear drive.

The statements, delivered in a closed event at a university but promptly leaked, provoked a harsh response from the US, with Secretary of State John Kerry calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in protest.

“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,” Psaki had told reporters on Wednesday.

According to the defense minister’s statement, Ya’alon told Hagel, “I have a very deep appreciation for the relationship between [Israel and the US] and for you personally. I greatly admired these relations even as Chief of Staff and I appreciate them to this day as defense minister, and I am aware of their full depth and significance. I have a total commitment to these relations and to [advancing] the cooperation between Israel and the United States in every way.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, left, points during a helicopter tour of the Golan Heights with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, April 2013 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, left, points during a helicopter tour of the Golan Heights with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, April 2013 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)

Hagel was said to have been empathetic in talking to Ya’alon, and suggested that some of his remarks might have been taken out of context, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported late Wednesday. However, a statement issued by the US Defense Department stopped short of referring to Ya’alon’s call as an apology, instead saying that Hagel thanked the defense minister for his clarification.

Two months ago, Ya’alon was also forced to issue an apology to Kerry over private comments in which the minister blasted the top American diplomat, among other critiques, for his “inexplicably obsessive” and “messianic” efforts to produce an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

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