JERUSALEM – In response to outrage from the U.S. over comments made by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Israeli diplomatic sources here said they are aware of statements that are “far worse” uttered by Obama administration officials against Israeli leaders, including remarks attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Some of the sources accused the U.S. of focusing on Yaalon’s statements to deliberately prompt a diplomatic crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.
Earlier in the week, Israel’s Yedioth Aharonot daily reported on remarks allegedly made by Yaalon in private to associates.
The unsourced report quoted Yaalon blasting Secretary of State John Kerry as “inexplicably obsessive” and “messianic” in his efforts to achieve a Palestinian state.
Yaalon reportedly told associates that Kerry has “nothing to teach me about the conflict with the Palestinians.”
Yaalon was said to have criticized Kerry’s Israeli-Palestinian plan as “not worth the paper it is printed on,” charging it will harm Israel’s security.
Of Kerry’s claim that his plan will render Israel’s borders safer than those of Canada, Yaalon was said to have retorted, “What are you talking about?”
Continued Yaalon, according to the report: “You’ve given us a plan based on advanced technologies – satellites, sensors, war rooms with TV screens – but with no presence in the field of our forces. How is that technology going to help when a Salafist or an Islamic Jihad terror cell tries to attack Israeli targets? How are satellites going to quash the rocket-building industry that’s developing in Nablus and that will launch rockets at Tel Aviv and the center of the country?”
In response, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the remarks, if accurate, were “offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel’s security needs.”
A follow-up article in Yedioth Aharonot Wednesday said Yaalon’s comments outraged the White House.
Yaalon met with the U.S. ambassador in an attempt to explain his comments.
Yaalon’s office released a statement that did not confirm or deny the remarks attributed to him.
The statement said relations with the U.S. are “intimate and are of high significance for us.”
“The U.S. is our greatest friend and most important ally, and when there are divisions we smooth them over inside the room [behind closed doors], including with Secretary of State Kerry, with whom I hold many talks about the future of Israel,” the statement said.
However, Israel’s Maariv newspaper quoted a senior American official as saying that “the U.S. isn’t satisfied by the defense minister’s explanations and expects the prime minister to explain publicly Israel’s commitment to the diplomatic process.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli diplomatic sources wondered why the U.S. was focusing on Yaalon’s alleged private comments.
They said U.S. allies in the Middle East, including the official state-run Palestinian media, routinely release anti-American sentiment.
The sources said they are aware of “far worse” even “shock” comments made by U.S. officials against Israeli leaders. Some of those remarks, they said, were made against Netanyahu by Obama administration officials in meetings with Israeli leaders.
Obama in November 2011 was caught on an open mic making controversial statements about Netanyahu.
The incident came when French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Obama on the open mic, “I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar.”
Obama’s responded, “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.”