Defense Minister Ya'alon: Israel Wants to Keep Jerusalem Status Quo

Speaking at inauguration ceremony of Israeli production line for the F-35 fighter jet, defense minister says U.S. and Israel share 'unbreakable bond.'

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, during the the F-35 wings production line inauguration ceremony at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), near Tel Aviv. Israel, Nov. 4, 2014.
Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, during the the F-35 wings production line inauguration ceremony at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), near Tel Aviv. Israel, Nov. 4, 2014.Credit: AP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Israel has no intention to change the status-quo in Jerusalem, during an inauguration ceremony of an Israeli production line for wings for the American F-35 aircraft on Tuesday.

Ya'alon accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of using the issue of the Temple Mount to incite for violence in Jerusalem, but said he expected the Israeli side to show "more responsible conduct" as well.

Against the background of reported tension between Israel and the U.S., Ya'alon said the inauguration of the wing production line, which joins Lockheed Martin's pick of the Israeli company Elbit to manufacture the plane's advanced headgear, marks the "unbreakable bond" between the two countries.

When asked by reporters about White House's refusal to give him an audience with Vice President Joe Biden, State Secretary John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice during his last visit to Washington, Ya'alon said he "felt no cold shoulder in Washington."

"On the way back home I heard who I couldn't meet, most likely because they weren't in Washington," said Ya'alon. He said he believes the reason was the midterm election, and added that he met all the officials that he intended to meet, mainly U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Tensions between the U.S. and Israel have boiled over most recently with U.S. condemnation of a surge in Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem and, last week, an anonymous Obama aide’s reported smear of Netanyahu as “chickenshit.”

“The special relationship between the U.S. and Israel is stronger than any disagreement,” Ya'alon said at the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries’ campus, near Tel Aviv.

Israel Aerospace Industries is scheduled to make more than 800 sets of F-35 wings, while another Israeli company, Elbit Systems Ltd., will produce helmets for the pilots.

Susan Ouzts, vice president of international programs at Lockheed, put the value of Israel’s contribution to the F-35 project at $4 billion.

Israel has bought 19 F-35s for $2.75 billion, with deliveries expected to begin in 2016, and could soon order between 25 and 31 more of the planes, defense sources said.

They said Ya'alon was expected to decide on that purchase on Wednesday at a meeting of Israeli officials kept low-key because of Finance Ministry misgivings about the large defense budget.

Regarding the process of picking a new Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Ya'alon said he met on Tuesday with candidates Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, and that his decision will be made and brought for the cabinet's approval in the next few days.

"All the candidates are worthy, and there's no reason either of the candidates can't be appointed, and I hope we'll make the right and good choice for the IDF and for Israel," Ya'alon said.

Reuters contributed to this report

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