U.S. Insists: Ya'alon Has Not Apologized

Obama administration official denies Israeli defense minister apologized to counterpart Chuck Hagel in widely reported phone conversation for 'offensive and highly disappointing comments.'

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

The Obama administration is insisting on an explicit apology from Israeli Defense Minister Ya'alon and is refusing to make do with his widely-reported conversation on Thursday with Defense Secretary Hagel.

Contrary to claims that Ya'alon has already apologized, a senior administration official said last night "Minister Ya’alon has not offered an apology to Secretary Hagel or any other member of the U.S. Government for his offensive and highly disappointing comments, which do not reflect the depth of our security cooperation and the enduring relationship between the United States and Israel."

Washington has been incensed at the Israeli defense minister since he leveled harsh criticism 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.”

Following a telephone call between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a personal talk with the prime minister, Ya'alon reportedly apologized to his American counterpart Chuck Hagel, saying, among other things, that there was no defiance, criticism or intention to hurt the United States or Israel's relations with its ally with his words.

However, in its statement following the Ya'alon-Hagel talk, the U.S. Defense Department refrained from referring to Ya'alon's statements as an apology, instead saying that Hagel said he thanked Ya'alon for the clarification, and appreciated what Ya'alon had to say about his commitment to those relations.

The extent of Americans' rage with Ya'alon was also shown by unusual public statements made by two Jewish groups with close ties to the Obama administration who blasted the Israeli defense minister.

In the harsher of the two, Rabbi Jack Moline of The National Jewish Democratic Council, the main Jewish group affiliated with the Democratic Party, said that “Ya'alon has clearly crossed a line with these absurd and over-the-top attacks against Israel’s strongest ally. His remarks are simply inappropriate for someone of Ya'alon’s stature, and we condemn these counterproductive and damaging statements.”

The Israeli Policy Forum, a pro-peace group, said in a statement that it “condemns recent statements by Ya'alon that insulted the Obama administration and harshly criticized American foreign policy in the Middle East and around the world.”

“We believe that Ya'alon’s criticisms of President Obama’s diplomatic efforts with Iran were unwarranted and unconstructive. His statements demonstrate a pattern of behavior which is not appropriate for the proper conduct of Israel’s diplomacy.”

“Ya'alon is compromising American-Israeli relations at a time when the United States is convening a process in which his government is a key participant,” said Israel Policy Forum chairman Peter Joseph. “Instead, his obstructionist outbursts simply support a view that Israel is not negotiating in good faith and better serves its critics and those opposed to a lasting peace.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alonCredit: Olivier Fitoussi

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