In blistering attack, U.S. official accuses Ya'alon of 'undermining' relations with Washington

Obama administration reacts to defense minister’s criticism of U.S. 'weakness', reported in Haaretz, with unprecedented personal rebuke that 'questions his commitment' to bilateral ties and U.S. security assistance.

Hagel and Ya'alon.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel walking with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon after he arrived on a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osp... / Photo by AP
By Chemi Shalev
Published 07:57 19.03.14

The Obama administration launched a blistering personal attack on Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday, accusing him of “undermining” the security ties between Israel and the United States. “We were shocked by Moshe Ya'alon’s comments, which seriously call into question his commitment to Israel’s relationship with the United States,” a senior administration official said.

The official’s sharp reaction, which appeared to be carefully worded, came in response to harsh criticism leveled by Ya'alon at the Obama administration in an address at Tel Aviv University, reported in Haaretz on Tuesday. Ya'alon said the United States “shows weakness” in various arenas around the world – including Ukraine – and that its allies in the Middle East are disappointed. Ya'alon said that because it is “sitting at home," America is opening itself up to terror attacks “and the United States will suffer.”

Ya'alon’s remarks sparked anger throughout official Washington, including the State Department and the White House. The irritation was compounded because of the previous incident in January, in which Ya'alon accused U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry of “messianic obsession” regarding the peace process. The frustration led to the publication – albeit on condition of anonymity - of one of the most harshly worded personal condemnations in the history of relations between the two countries.

“We were shocked by Moshe Ya'alon’s comments, which seriously call into question his commitment to Israel’s relationship with the United States,” the official said. “Moreover, this is part of a disturbing pattern in which the defense minister disparages the U.S. administration, and insults its most senior officials. 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.”

A senior figure in the Jewish establishment, when apprised of the wording of the official’s statement, said last night that he could not recall such a “bitter outburst” against an Israeli minister in recent years. He said that statement was tantamount to “a vote of no confidence” in Ya'alon, and that the tension between the administration and the defense minister was bound to have an effect on ties between the two countries, “if not directly then indirectly.”

Another source who maintains regular contacts with administration officials said that in addition to the fact that Ya'alon is now viewed in Washington as a “serial insulter” who apparently fails to appreciate the extent of the American contribution to Israel’s security, two specific elements in the remarks reported by Haaretz probably enraged U.S. officials: Ya'alon’s characterization of Obama’s weakness in the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine, and his “threat” that terror would strike the United States at home.

“The Americans are well- acquainted with the political game in Israel and they can understand why Ya'alon might feel it necessary to position himself to the hawkish right of Netanyahu,” the source said. “What they can’t understand is his insistence on spitting into the well that nourishes the Israeli defense establishment that he is responsible for.” 


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  • 40.
    If the majority of Israeli want war, there is no reason why their own head of state can't send them.
    If the majority of Israelis DON'T want war, or don't want to fight it, themselves there's no reason for sending anyone.
  • 39.
    If the little guy wants war for Israel, why is he asking the wrong head of state?
  • 38.
    Mr. Ya'alon
    I think our Defense Minister has a screw lose and should be dismissed from his post andif we had a serious Prime Minister he would have done that a minute after his comments against the USA. I don't know what is happenning to us but it is nothing good and we are bound to suffer for it.
  • 37.
    "How dare the Jews complain" Obama
    Obviously Obama does not believe that Israeli officials can express any doubts about HIS plans. But Obama is silent when abbas, rouhani call him a liar and ridicule his policies. Obama is a wimp before Putin,abbas, iran but beats up on Israel
  • Israeli's not Jews.
    So you believe that the relationship between the US and Israel is similar to the relationship between US and Russia, US and Iran and US and the Palestinian Authority?
  • Israeli's, not Jews
    That is not what Art said, Brad.
  • 36.
    yaalon is not the first
    Nor, as the article points out, is this his first time insulting the US. Hopefully, he will be persona non grata in the US and the Obama administration should call for a public apology both from the gasbag warmonger and the government of Israel. The US does not need to support this warmonger in his itch to strike Iran.
  • 35.
    Yaalon will lose Israel that big welare check if he doesn't shut up.....
  • welfare? lol...the US loan guarantees benefit the US, the economy and the US doesnt shed any 'blood and treasure'.
  • 34.
    I disagree with the previous comment. I believe Haaretz provides a needed platform for intelligent, level headed descent, contrary to the homogenized zionist front in other western media outlets. Just because Haaretz is not afraid to hold up the mirror to the radical zionist right doesn't mean it's anti Israel. As an American deeply concerned for the wellbeing of the Mideast, I thank God for Haaretz. I believe it's one of the best news sources available, especially for US Islreali relations.
  • 33.
    Haaretz is Undermining US-Israel Ties
    Haaretz by continually focusing on comments made by Israel officials regarding the US, is intentionally trying to harm US-Israel ties. This does not mean that Ya'alon is not in the wrong, it just demonstrates that Haaretz is constantly working to undermine Israel.
  • Classical example of shooting the messenger
    Haaretz did not upset the American government, but Ya'alon did!
  • 32.
    Israel's Survival
    Unfortunately, Israel has chosen the military path to security. Consequently, Israel's only tool is the proverbial hammer which only sees reality as a succession of nails to be hammered down. For the Zionist state there is no other way other than to conquer or be conquered, the consequence of such posturing is eventual defeat. Those who live by the sword perish by the sword.
  • 31.
    Does Israel even know the art of politics?
    I don't think so. Does it think the walk-outs of the Knesset on foreign speakers, Bennett's diatribes, Ya'alon's outbursts, Netanyahu's bullying are going to win them more supporters in the West? Has Israel never heard that "you attract more bees with sugar than with vinegar?" Perhaps someone will offer it a copy of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People"? Really. If it is with this kind of anger and disdain that Israel treats its friends, I have to believe that its treatment of the Palestinians is 100x worse.
  • Which Israeli Minister Was It?.....
    That made the Turkish foreign minister sit on a stool, intentionally embarrassing him?
  • 30.
    Being Quiet won't Influence US Policy
    What's the point in having friends who are prepared to sell you down the river? Also, Congress is firmly behind Israel. Obama is the one who is prepared to grant concessions to Iran. There is a huge divergence between the President and Congress. Ya'alon should use every opportunity to pressure Obama not to sell out over the next few months. If Obama doesn't like it, too bad for him. Iran's nuclear program is a life and death issue for Israel. The long term survival of the nation may well depend on the outcome of these negotiations. The time for Israel to speak up is NOW, not after all the papers are signed. I hope the Defence Minister keeps up the pressure on the Obama administration and continues to use Congress as a lever to ensure that the final agreement with Iran is not some watered down piece of junk.
  • 29.
    Seems to me the politically correct WH doesnt like being exposed to the truth from yaalon....tisk tisk...
    yaalon happens top be quite correct. The white house just doesn't like being exposed for what they are.
  • I totally agree with you
    Given since Netanyahu took office the abuse of the American President has been constant and more illegal settlements have been expanded in Netanyahus time than any other Israeli PM. America has been week and only expressed words of disgust at Israel when it could have kicked Israels butt much harder by shutting off all Aid and demanding it cease all construction in compliance with its signed agreements. Israel is making America look weaker by the day and still America does nothing when it holds the power over Israel. America's status has fallen dramatically in recent years because it has done nothing to Israel.
  • 28.
    Shocking? Maybe. But is he factually incorrect?
    Is there anything Putin, Assad or Khamenei can do to make Obama lift a finger? Seems like "expression of concern" is the most Obama will do, whatever happens.
  • 27.
    Russia invades Ukraine, and this is all the nutty State Dept has on its mind
  • 26.
    I'm waiting for a real rebuttal of what he said - Obama's foreign policy is a joke
  • 25.
    I completely agree with the Americans and with Ya'alon, BUT a minister should not make comments like that in public.
    Natanyahu should fire him. Then he can say what he wants.
  • Idiots should stay out of politics.
  • 24.
    So what does it take to cease charitable funding to Israel? Cut them loose. There will be peace within 5 years.
  • 23.
    Ya'alon saying it like it is
    Ya'alon says what the whole world is thinking right now
  • 22.
    BDS - BDS - BDS - BDS
  • 21.
    Obama Is Best
    Obama does what is right for the US - and that means strategic partnering with Israel. I like Obama. BTW: Never move to nofei aviv (bet shemesh). Its cliquey and snobby. If you move to Aviv and someone doesnt like you they get the word out and you are socially outcasted. In other words, you wont be invited over for Shabbat or Chagim at other families (that is a very big social activity in Aviv) and you wont be invited to parties even though everyone else on the block is and your kids wont have many friends (other than the few Israeli kids who live in Aviv). Its 99% anglo and 99% socially messed up.
  • 20.
    What a fool this Ya'alon is! NetanBibi should fire him immediately!
  • 19.
    Ya'alon sees Israel as a Republican entity...
    ...attacking Democratic leadership just as the Republicans do. In truth, plenty of Republicans are cheering Ya'alon on, and he knows it. The more Ya'alon can damage Obama, the sooner he can help the Republicans throw Obama out of power. It's all about the long game—and completely disgusting.
  • 18.
    Wise Move Boogie
    Come on, everyone knows that a few words will not create a cessation of friendly relations between the US and ISRAEL Who else do the US have in the region? Jordan? Sometimes things need to be said, it's hard to find someone say his words are incorrect. Obama has been weak with Ukraine according to almost everyone and let's face it Iran walked all over him .
  • 17.
    Telling it like it is. Pretense is not policy. Relations change, and acknowledging that is not an insult.
  • 16.
    yaalon and bibi
    Yaalon was not acting alone,he represents the current government. Whose behaviour is suicidal insanity. It is also ridiculous. Israel is tiny country and its leaders behave as if it were a world power. If the US ceases to support Israel on the world scene, Israel's existence will be endangered. The founders of Zionism understood very well how to plead their case in international forums. Bibi (lulled by the support of a handful of ageing Jewish millionaires) has no such skills, and Yaalon thinks he can behave like Putin. One can only weep.
  • 15.
    The friends in indeed.
    Since the US miraculously became the “new Saudi Arabia” and no longer need the US economy depend on high-risk oil or gas from the politically unstable Middle East or African countries, the transfer of U.S. forces to the Far East and Pacific and the partition plan for the Middle East are imminent. This project would solve the economic crisis in the United States at the expense of Europeans and Israel. The Quincy agreement signed in 1945 for the protection of Saudi Kingdom is not valid anymore (Throw the Saudis out of Saudi Arabia," the title of a July, 2002 powerpoint presentation to the Political Council of the Department of Defense). Within the scope of these unexpected developments, Israeli Government started playing dangerous games by cooperating China especially in Africa. This is completely against the US scenario on the Broader Middle East and Africa Initiative. After the loss of another become desolated in the region behind the high concrete walls.
  • 14.
    Excellent last sentence. Obama must be completely fed up
    “What they [the Americans] can’t understand is his [Ya'alon's] insistence on spitting into the well that nourishes the Israeli defense establishment that he is responsible for.”
  • Obama is not king, The American public supports Israel
    Obama is weak and it takes a friend to tell the truth.
  • 13.
    Suspend military aid to Israel
    Maybe then he'll shut his mouth.
  • Wonderful idea, suspend ALL aid to the ungrateful nation
    we will then see AIPAC begging the US to forgive and forget. These Israeli leaders have one thing for sure - a boatload of arrogance.
  • Agree - but you reap what you sew!
    The US and EU must take responsibility for the way they are treated by some government ministers and MKs. Because of their support - financial, military and diplomatic - Israel has been permitted to extend the occupation and its extremist agenda. At worst, it has sometimes received a verbal slap on the wrist for doing so. So it is not surprising if Israel's hawks now feel invulnerable; that they can say and do virtually anything but their allies will continue to treat them with kid gloves! Israel will not change, if others want it to it is they who will have to do things differently.
  • 12.
    EVEN if Yalalon is correct...he is a dilplomatic NIGHTMARE, his ministry is dependant on the USA, how ....
    on earth can he be so tactless and shot goose that lays the golden egg. HE MUST BE REMOVED....Israel needs co-operation with the USA, specially his ministry...Ya'alon keep a lid on it..If he as comments concerning Israel, they dont need to be public insults (sounds like I am talking to my 3 year old son)..Lastly, his behavior is a major existential threat to Israel..and we know what Israel policy is to those who threaten its existence...remove this man out of politics...FAST>
  • 11.
    'The Americans can't understand why Ya'alon...'
    Neither can I. The man is damaging Israeli's military interests for his own political agenda.
  • 10.
    Bon Chance Israel
    spitting in the face of American benefactors is intolerable. This must be your way of saying thank you,
  • 9.
    Israel isn't Crimea. Even if Obama seems to think he is Putin. Yaalon is the defence minister of a sovereign country.
  • Israel wouldn't be sovereign for long without Washington's support.
  • 8.
    Just another slap in the face by our arrogant, ungrateful "friends"
  • 7.
    Israel wants divorce
  • Ah but they will still want the alimony
  • By all means .............................
    Give "her a Get" and a past due bill .
  • Divorce
    If Israel wants a divorce, the US will gladly give it.
  • divorce
  • 6.
  • 5.
    what is so surprising?
    What is so surprising about Yaalon's comments. Israeli politicians, from Netanyahu down, think they can spit into the American well from which they drink with impunity. Will the Americans ever teach them a lesson?
  • 4.
    Israel Attacks
    This is silly bc this is the second time he's mercilessly berated the Obama Administration and expects to get away with it. Guess Israel thinks the US is supposed just take whatever they decide to dish out when they have a temper tantrum. It doesn't work that way. You'll get back what you give out with the same force.
  • 3.
    Seems like Moshe Ya'alon struck a raw nerve. Seems like those lackey American officials know it. America deserves better.
  • 2.
    Obama Admin
    Governor Romney was right.. and G-d bless Israel and keep her eternally.
  • 1.
    Good for the US to call him out
    how much criticism must the US keep taking from these ungrateful Israeli leaders? How much insults must US officials keep taking, and how much can they take Israel's feeble attempts at throwing monkey wrenches into it's work? If Israel wants to cling to it's occupation and keep wielding power over it's long suffering neighbor, then the US should quit wasting time and money, and leave Israel to face the consequences of breaking international laws. When it comes to peace, once again It should be Israel's way or the highway.