Kerry calls Netanyahu after anti-U.S. remarks

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Washington’s handling of the Ukrainian crisis is an example of U.S. ‘weakness’

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to protest remarks by Israel’s defense minister that portrayed the United States as weak in its handling of nuclear talks with Iran and other world affairs, Reuters reported a State Department spokeswoman as saying.

Speaking during a lecture at Tel Aviv University on Monday, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel could not rely on its main ally to take the lead in confronting Iran over its nuclear program.

He also pointed to Ukraine’s crisis as an example of Washington “showing weakness.”

In a telephone call, Kerry told Netanyahu that Yaalon’s comments were inconsistent with strong ties between Israel and the United States.

“Clearly his comments were not constructive,” Agence France-Presse quoted State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki as telling reporters.

“Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning and protested to him his concerns about these comments,” Psaki said, adding that the United States has an “unshakeable commitment” to Israel’s security.

“It is certainly confusing to us why Defense Minister Yaalon 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.”

But Kerry has a “thick skin” and “we’re ready to move forward and keep talking about the peace process,” Psaki added.

Yaalon’s apologizes

In a later statement issued by the Israeli defense minister’s office, after he spoke with his U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel, Yaalon said: “There was in my comments no criticism or intention to offend the United States.”

“The strategic relations between our countries is of supreme importance as are personal relations at every level. I highly value the relations between Israel and the United States.”

It is not Yaalon’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 minister accusing Kerry of an “incomprehensible obsession” with his push for Middle East peace.

Yaalon was later forced to apologize to the top U.S. diplomat.

The United States is seeking to broker a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, with efforts intensifying in recent weeks to secure agreement on a framework for talks by the end of April.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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