The Defense Minister's Dangerous Delusion

In addition to being scornful of Washington, Moshe Ya'alon is also dead wrong about his assessment of U.S. power and reliability.

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Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has done it again. After making scornful remarks about the United States, its international standing and its support for Israel, he was instructed to apologize. In what has become routine procedure he called his American counterpart, Chuck Hagel, and told him that he “had no intention of offending” America and that he “has very deep admiration for the relations between the countries and for Hagel on a personal level.”

Only two months ago Ya’alon had to make a similar clarification, after calling American Secretary of State John Kerry “obsessive and messianic” due to the latter’s efforts to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Ya’alon’s apologies are hollow. They focus on manners and etiquette rather than on the essence. The defense minister doesn’t trust the United States and has no respect for the American administration. He thinks the super power is afraid of confrontations and radiates weakness in the way it handles international affairs.

As Barak Ravid reported (Haaretz, March 18), Ya’alon had expected the United States to “lead the campaign against Iran,” and was disappointed. His disappointment led him to conclude that Israel should conduct itself, as far as Iran is concerned, as though it had no allies. This is similar to the position held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sees the nuclear agreement between the powers and Iran as a “historic mistake.”

Netanyahu has not renounced Ya’alon’s statements and the two share the same negative view of the United States’ power and reliability. The two also object to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement hinging on a withdrawal from the West Bank. Presumably, the American Secretary of Defense’s mild response only served to further deepen Jerusalem’s scorn toward Obama’s administration.

The prime minister and defense minister are wrong. Israel has no ally beside the United States to defend it in the international arena, provide the IDF with aid and weapons and strive for a regional power balance that takes Israel’s interests into consideration.

There is great danger in the combination of the Israeli dread that “the West has abandoned us for Iranian lies” and the feeling that Israel is strong and can dictate its will to other powers in the region. In the past Israel has gone to war in similar situations. It must not slide once more into a crisis, because of its leadership’s distorted evaluation of the situation.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alonCredit: Olivier Fitoussi