Obama Administration Feels Insulted by Israel’s Defense Minister — Unprecedented Response

Defense Minister Boogie Ya'alon, former top general, now not Obama's favorite Israeli

Defense Minister Boogie Ya’alon, not Obama’s favorite Israeli

Israel’s defense minister, Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon, may have hit some raw nerves in Washington.  His sharp criticisms of the Obama Administration, for being “feeble” on the world stage, were totally uncalled for — as officials in Washington see it — and they wonder how Ya’alon could possibly think that such remarks will strengthen Israel’s alliance with the United States.

More relevantly, they wonder how he could think his attitude could possibly help Israel get the defense and intelligence help it needs from the United States.

Ya’alon’s recent remarks — including the notion that Iran has out-negotiated the U.S. in the nuclear talks now resuming in Vienna — are ably summarized by The Jerusalem Post.  And an authorized reaction from a senior American official, who asked not to be named, is blistering:

“We were shocked by Moshe Ya’alon’s comments, which seriously call into question his commitment to Israel’s relationship with the United States.  Moreover, this is part of a disturbing pattern in which the Defense Minister disparages the U.S. Administration, and insults its most senior officials.  Given the unprecedented commitment that this Administration has made to Israel’s security, we are mystified why the Defense Minister seems intent on undermining the relationship.”

Officials close to Ya’alon are now responding that some elements in the Obama Administration are out to get him.  According to these Israelis, Ya’alon has been identified as “a problem” in Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to mediate a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.  The Ya’alon loyalists also say that he has maintained a very close relationship with the Pentagon, and his strategic view of the world is a separate matter — a set of opinions to which he is entitled.

Still, whether an Israeli defense minister should voice sharp, even rude, criticisms of an American president is another matter.

A clear-eyed view of internal politics in Israel, about Ya’alon?: The retired IDF general is doing his best to position himself as an expert on global strategy — highly skeptical of peace talks, talks with Iran, and anyone who would purport to “help” Israel when it’s only Jewish power that can defend the country.  That is his viewpoint, and his views and style prompt his critics to label him “self-righteous.”

Certainly as defense minister he is pushing hard to stake out a strong position — to the right of Prime Minister Netanyahu — with an eye toward future elections and government coalitions.

There is also an odd revelation about Israel’s defense budget, with a large chunk (around 20%) supposedly devoted to preparing for war with Iran.

As was probably intended by some Israelis, the world is doubtless noticing Ha’aretz report — citing several members of the K’nesset (Israel’s parliament) — revealing nearly $3 billion has been allocated this year to pay for a possible attack by Israel, unilaterally, on Iran’s nuclear facilities.  (This, apparently, would be a Plan B in case diplomatic efforts to reduce or eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat fail.)

This is a return to saber-rattling by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  An open Israeli strike on Iran is highly unlikely; but indeed it’s not impossible.

March 19, 2014

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