White House gives Israel defense minister the cold shoulder
As his visit to the United States drew to an end, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was denied an audience with high-profile White House officials reportedly as a result of critical remarks he made six months ago, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.
Ya’alon was denied a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, senior U.S. officials confirmed to the Israeli daily.
“Given some of his comments in the recent past, it should come as no surprise that he was denied some meetings,” a senior U.S. official told the Haaretz.
The Israeli official did meet with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power. He only met with the latter after the White House was too late to instruct Power to not meet with Ya’lon, the Associated Press reported.
While White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Department of State Spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not deny these reports, they described Ya’alon’s meeting with Hagel as “a natural, standard procedure.”
Although Ya’alon’s request to meet with senior members of the Obama administration was declined a week ago, reports of the incident surfaced shortly after he returned to Israel on Friday.
Past fiery remarks
Ya’lon’s visit was supposed to mend deteriorating relations with the Obama administration.
While in Washington, he claimed the spat between him and Kerry was over, telling the Washington Post they “overcame that.”
A series of statements contributed to the animosity between Ya’lon and senior White House officials.
In January, Ya’alon described Kerry as “obsessive and messianic” while speaking about the U.S. Secretary of State’s efforts to resume Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Although Ya’alon issued an apology co-authored with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the statement was rejected by the U.S. government as inadequate.
Then in March, the defense minister made another fiery remark in a closed conference in which he criticized American foreign policy towards Iran.
Ya’lon said President Barack Obama was avoiding taking action against Iran, deferring the task to his successor.
“People know Iran cheats,” he reportedly said, “But comfortable Westerners prefer to put off confrontation. If possible, to next year, or the next president. But in the end, it will blow up.”
“If your image is feebleness, it doesn’t pay in the world. Nobody will replace the United States as global policeman. I hope the United States comes to its senses. If it doesn’t, it will challenge the world order, and the United States is the one that will suffer,” he said.