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US fuming over Israeli Defence Minister's remarks

US Secretary of State John Kerry contacted Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to officially protest against remarks made by Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who described the United States as "weak" in its handling of the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme and other international affairs.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper leaked the statements made by Ya'alon during a lecture at Tel Aviv University on Monday. The Defence Minister stated that Israel could not rely on its main ally to take the lead and confront Iran over its nuclear programme, adding that Washington also appeared "weak" in dealing with the Ukraine crisis.

This is the second time this year that Washington has protested against the strong public criticisms Ya'alon has levelled at the US. The Defence Minister, who is a member of the right-wing Likud party led by Netanyahu and served in the past as Israel's Chief of Staff in the Israeli army, sarcastically asserted in January that Kerry was acting like a Messiah in his quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that: "Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning and expressed his growing concerns about these statements. Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has said that the extent of US-Israeli security cooperation is unprecedented."

Psaki added: "So, it is certainly confusing to us why Defence Minister Ya'alon would continue his pattern of making comments that don't accurately represent the scope of our close partnership on a range of security issues and on the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel."

White House spokesperson Jay Carney also criticised Ya'alon's remarks, describing them as "non- constructive". He insisted that the US "maintains an unwavering commitment to Israel's security".

Netanyahu has been openly critical of the interim agreement concluded by the P5+1 world powers and Iran in November 2013 to reduce its sensitive nuclear activities in return for relieving some of the sanctions, describing it as "a historic mistake".

An Israeli official who attended the lecture confirmed Ya'alon's remarks, which communicated the Defence Minister's deep disappointment with the way US President Barack Obama is dealing with global issues.

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