Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon seems to have a penchant for insulting Israel's most important ally and defender. His latest targets are the American president and secretary of state. Making matters worse was the silence of his prime minister, who didn't do anything until Secretary of State John Kerry called. And even then Yaalon's apology was so weak that, in an unprecedented move, the White House and State Department rejected it and responded with a stinging rebuke.
Yaalon earlier this year called Kerry's efforts to revive the peace process "inexplicably obsessive" and "messianic" and said he has "nothing to teach me about the conflict with the Palestinians. All that can 'save us' is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace."
His latest was an attack on American "weakness" and need to "come to its senses" and start acting like "the world's policeman." The United States, he said, can't be relied upon to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons."
Ya’alon said US military aid to Israel “isn’t a favor America is doing, it’s in their interest.” Yes, it is true the US benefits, but as Israeli military analyst Ron Ben- Yishai observed, “The simple truth is that the US can survive pretty well without Israel as an ally, but the inverse is not the case.”
He called Ya’alon’s “provocative” remarks “irresponsible” and “a serious failure in Israel’s management of its security affairs.”
Ya’alon is entitled to his opinions, but when it takes the form of bitter broadsides against Israel’s most important ally and the one that provides over $3 billion in annual military assistance, the defense minister, of all people, should have some appreciation of that fact. Yet he seems determined to undermine the relationship he claims is so important.
If he feels compelled to air his opinions in public, he should do so as a private citizen. Netanyahu's failure to fire this serial insulter may be seen as an endorsement.
Some have suggested that Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon is only saying what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can't. I don't buy that. Whether the two agree or not, Ya'alon is his own man and no one's puppet.
Even Ya'alon's defenders agree he should be more circumspect in his disagreements with Washington. Others suggest since his comments were off the record or in private, they don't count. In Israel? Don't be absurd. As in Washington, if you want to keep something secret don't tell it to a group of 100 people at a university; in fact make sure you don't even talk in your sleep.
Ya'alon either has to make a concerted effort to rebuild trust with Israel's most important ally or Prime Minister Netanyahu should find a defense minister who can.