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.