Is this a first? State Dep’t rebukes out-of-control Israeli minister

Israel/Palestine
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Moshe Ya'alon, Israeli Defense Minister

Moshe Ya’alon, Israeli Defense Minister

Another sweet moment in the special relationship. A religious zealot who is one of their rightwing government ministers–Defense, no less–attacks the US secretary of state over the peace talks, going on a tirade in newspaper interviews and saying Kerry has a “misplaced obsession and messianic fervor”and should just win a Nobel Prize and then go away.

And: The State Department expresses anger at the statement, saying it would never expect this from the defense minister of “a close ally.”

And the zealot ends up apologizing to Kerry.

First, the only surprise in the story, the slapdown. From the State Department briefing Tuesday:

QUESTION: Yes. The minister of defense for Israel is quoted today as saying that Secretary Kerry is aggressive and messianic and let him – I’m quoting him – let him get the Nobel Prize for peace and leave Israel alone, and that the paper on which the security plan of the United States, as far as the Jordan Valley is concerned, is not worth the paper it’s written on. Do you have a reaction?

MS. [Marie] HARF: We do. If these comments are accurate, we find the remarks of the defense minister to be offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that the United States has done to support Israel’s security needs and will continue to do. Secretary Kerry and his team, including General Allen, have been working day and night to try to promote a secure peace for Israel because of the Secretary’s deep concern for Israel’s future. That’s precisely why the Secretary and his team have been working so hard here. To question his motives, to distort his proposals, is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally, and again, if accurate, I think we’ve been very clear that we would find these comments offensive and inappropriate.

BBC reports the apology:

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has apologised for quotes that appeared in a newspaper that lambasted US Secretary of State John Kerry’s role in the Middle East peace process…

However, in a statement, Mr Yaalon’s office said that he had no intention to cause any offence.

“The defence minister… apologises if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister.”

Israel and the US shared “a common goal” of advancing peace talks with the Palestinians, the statement said.

“We appreciate Secretary Kerry’s many efforts towards that end.”

Al Jazeera highlight the State Department’s rebuke and more of Ya’alon’s remarks.

The US State Department on Tuesday described the Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon’s comments as “offensive”, in a mark of the degree of outrage in Washington at the latest public spat between the two allies, which follows a major disagreement over Iran policy.

“The American plan for security arrangements that was shown to us isn’t worth the paper it was written on,” Yaalon was quoted as saying in private conversations with Israeli officials.

Ynet reports that the comments have sparked division inside the Israeli government. Labor leader Isaac Herzog has called on the so-called centrists in the Israeli ruling coalition to resign:

“Kerry has been making every effort possible. It won’t be tolerated if he’s slandered,” he said. “I’ve met with him twice this month and I found a determined man, a political leader who tells the same truths to both sides.”

Justice Minister Livni wrote on her Facebook page that Kerry should be commended for his efforts, and that no one had the right to destroy Israel’s friendship with the US.

“Our relations with the US are our biggest national strategic asset, and they are vital for Israel’s security,” he said. “You can oppose the negotiations and still not verbally attack and damage our relationship with our best ally.”

Richard Silverstein was on this story two days ago. He offers these quotes from the man he calls a “bemedalled jackass”:

“I live and breathe the conflict with the Palestinians; I know what they think, what they want and what they are really planning,” [Ya’alon] said.

“Secretary of State John Kerry — who arrived here determined, and who operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism — can’t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.”

“The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be,” he added.

Silverstein knows about Ya’alon:

The first thing that must be said here is that if anything, it is Yaalon who operates out of a messianic obsession.  I’ve documented here that Yaalon toured Australia with Moshe Feiglin under the auspices of the settler movement.  Indeed, Meir Kahane’s grandson made the arrangements for them.  When he was IDF chief of staff, his commander in chief, Prime Minister Sharon told him to assist in the withdrawal from Gaza.  Yaalon refused.  Sharon sacked him.

Not to mention that I’ve documented Yaalon’s outright lies both about Iran and the Palestinians.  This man couldn’t tell the truth about anything concerning Arabs if his life depended on it.

But the real topper is for Yaalon to claim he knows what Palestinians think, want and plan….[H]e hasn’t a clue.  In fact, I’d venture to say that every opinion he has about Arabs is wrong.  Having him as defense minister is akin to having Typhoid Mary appointed secretary of agriculture.

Returning to the peace talks, when Kerry promised the Israelis that their eastern border would be the “quietest in the world,” Yaalon exploded (Hebrew):

“What are you talking about?  You’ve offered us a plan that relies on sophisticated technology, satellites, sensors, war rooms filled by banks of TV monitors without our physical presence in the field.  I ask you–how will technology respond when a Salafist or Islamic Jihad cell tries to mount a terror operation against Israeli targets?  Who will deal with them?  Which satellites will deal with the rocket factories that will set up shop in Hebron and launch their missiles at Tel Aviv and central Israel?  In Gaza, terror groups already have thousands of missiles that can hit the center of the country.  They’ve already transferred this technology and expertise to produce missiles in the West Bank.”

Once again, note that neither Islamic Jihad or Salafist cells have attacked Israel from the West Bank.  Nor is there any evidence the Israeli government or its intelligence agencies have produced showing that missile production expertise has been exported from Gaza to the West Bank.  I haven’t even heard that there are missiles in the West Bank.  This is sheer bluff.

We’ve just seen the death and burial of perhaps the greatest Israeli bluffer (read, “liar“) of them all, Ariel Sharon.  Yaalon learned a few things at Sharon’s knee, it appears.

Yaalon continued with his diatribe, this time launching into his “they-must-recognize-us-as-a-Jewish-state-or-else” mode:

“If there is no change [on the Palestinian side] regarding this matter, then there isn’t any purpose to the satellites or sensors the Americans propose.  The five year-old in a suicide vest will continue trying to kill us when he grows up.”

The ultimate chutzpah of this bemedalled jackass may be seen in his response to being taken to the woodshed by the Obama administration, which called his comments “unacceptable.”

Thanks to Henry Norr.

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