Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon was forced on Wednesday night to apologise to the US, for the second time in recent months, over his remarks about the American stance towards Iran, accusing the US of “weakness” and of not being committed to Israel’s security.
During a speech at Tel Aviv University on Monday, Ya’alon told the audience that the Iranians were better negotiators than the Americans. He also criticised US foreign policy, saying that, “If you sit and wait at home, the terrorism will come again. This is a war of civilisations. If your image is feebleness, it doesn’t pay in the world…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.”
Several US officials, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, strongly criticised Ya’alon’s remarks. Kerry voiced his concern to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that Ya’alon’s comments were “unconstructive” and “confusing”.
A senior US official told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that, “We were shocked by Moshe Ya’alon’s comments, which seriously call into question his commitment to Israel’s relationship with the United States… Given the unprecedented commitment that this administration has made to Israel’s security, we are mystified why the defence minister seems intent on undermining the relationship.”
The official also said that the US was demanding a public apology.
In response, Ya’alon called US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel to explain that he had no intention to defy, criticise or hurt the US or its relations with Israel.
While speaking with Hagel, Ya’alon said: “The strategic relationship between the two countries is of utmost importance, as are the personal relations and common interests.”
Ya’alon continued: “I have a deep appreciation for the relations between our countries and to you personally…I appreciate them…I recognise their depth and importance.”