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Ya'alon to Hagel: I Did Not Intend to Insult the U.S.

Defense Minister speaks to Defense Secretary Hagel, clarifies his remarks on Iran were not meant to insult the United States.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/19/2014, 11:57 PM

Moshe Ya'alon and Chuck Hagel
Moshe Ya'alon and Chuck Hagel
Flash 90

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon spoke to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday evening and clarified that his remarks regarding the "soft" approach of the West toward the possibility of a nuclear Iran were not meant to insult the United States.

A statement from Ya’alon’s office said that in a telephone conversation with Hagel, Ya’alon said that “there was no intent to criticize or hurt the United States or our relationship”.

“There is an utmost importance to the strategic relationship between our two countries, as well as the personal relationship and mutual interests,” Ya’alon told his American counterpart.

“I appreciate the relationship at between Israel and the United States in general and the security systems in particular. I have a deep appreciation for the relationship between our countries and for you personally,” he continued. “I greatly appreciated these relations as Chief of Staff and I appreciate them today as Defense Minister. I have a total commitment to these relations and to the cooperation between Israel and the United States.”

According to the Defense Ministry’s statement, Hagel thanked Ya’alon for his remarks and said that he was aware that some of his remarks had been taken out of context.

“I appreciate our personal relationship and the relationship between our two countries, and I appreciate your comments regarding your commitment to these relations,” Hagel said.

The conversation between the two men came after the United States harshly criticized Ya’alon for the remarks, which it viewed as an attempt to harm the relations between the U.S. and Israel.

In fact, Secretary of State John Kerry personally protested to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over Ya'alon's strong criticism.

In a telephone call, Kerry told Netanyahu Wednesday that the comments made by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon are inconsistent with reality, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

"Clearly his comments were not constructive," Psaki told reporters.

"Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning and protested to him his concerns about these comments," she said, adding that the U.S. has an "unshakeable commitment" to Israel's security.

"It is certainly confusing to us why Defense 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," Psaki added.

It is not Ya'alon's first diatribe against the administration of President Barack Obama and Kerry himself.

In January, the State Department denounced as "offensive" comments made by the defense minister accusing Kerry of being "obsessive" and "messianic" with his push for Middle East peace.

Ya'alon was later forced to apologize to the top U.S. diplomat, who has been trying to hammer out a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).