Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did damage control on the Israel-US relationship in his speech in honor of the Knesset’s 65th birthday, following Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s comments about US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Even when we have disagreements with the US, they are always on the heart of the matter, not on the merits of an individual,” Netanyahu said in an apparent dig at Ya’alon, who, according to a Yediot Aharonot report, accused Kerry of being “messianic” and “delusional” when it comes to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The United States on Tuesday rebuked Israel for comments attributed to Israel’s defense minister.
“The remarks of the Defense Minister if accurate are offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel’s security needs,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a brief statement that constituted a rare rebuke to close ally Israel.
“Secretary Kerry and his team including General (John) 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,” she added. “To question his motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the Defense Minister of a close ally.”
Following the reports in Yediot, Ya’alon’s bureau released a statement which contained a pledge to smooth over divisions with Washington, but not a denial of the reported remarks.
Relations between the US and Israel are “intimate and are of high significance for us. The US is our greatest friend and most important ally, and when there are divisions we smooth them over inside the room [behind closed doors], including with Secretary of State Kerry, with whom I hold many talks about the future of Israel,” the statement said.
Ya’alon vowed to continue to safeguard the security of Israeli citizens with “determination, responsibility, and sound judgment.”
“The US is our greatest ally,” Netanyahu stated in his speech. “We are partners in goals and joint interests: regional stability, the war on terror, growth, security and peace. We are making efforts to bring security to the region and stand up for our interests.”
The prime minister said that true peace depends on recognition of Israel as the Jewish state along with security arrangements that will ensure that “the land in the Palestinians’ hands will not turn into terrorist launching pads.”
However, he said, those aims must be reached “while respecting our important connection with the US.”
“We stand up for our national interests and one of those is continuing to cultivate our connection with our ally, the US,” Netanyahu added.
President Shimon Peres thanked US President Barack Obama “for his full responsiveness to our security and intelligence needs” and Kerry for his “determined efforts to make peace.”
“There is no doubt [Obama] wants to see a peaceful Middle East,” Peres told the Knesset. “Our deep friendship with the US is a central component of Israel’s security and an impetus for peace in the Middle East.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) also referred to Ya’alon’s comments, saying that the relationship with the US is essential and “we shouldn’t call them ‘messianic’ or ‘delusional’ or any other derogatory nicknames.”
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.
View original Jerusalem post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Netanyahu-does-damage-control-reaffirms-friendship-with-US-after-Yaalons-dig-at-Kerry-338158