The U.S. State Department spokesperson tried her darnedest to downplay U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s refusal to meet with Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon when the latter was in Washington, D.C. last week.
On Tuesday, Oct. 21, Ya’alon arrived in Washington where he met with his American counterpart, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and American intelligence officials.
However, according to YNet, the Obama administration refused Ya’alon’s request to meet with other top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
The snub was chalked up to lingering enmity resulting from private remarks made by Ya’alon – but which were publicly reported – in which Ya’alon allegedly spoke derisively about Kerry’s efforts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.
Ya’alon allegedly said Kerry came to Israel “determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor,” and described the American security plan for Israel as “not worth the paper it is written on. It contains no peace and no security.”
The Americans went ballistic, saying that if the comments attributed to Ya’alon are accurate, they are “offensive and inappropriate” and described them as “shocking.”
Ya’alon later issued an apology in a written statement: “The defense minister had no intention to cause any offense to the secretary, and he apologizes if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister.”
American officials apparently are not used to being insulted publicly, and when it happens, not having a groveling response. And so, apparently, the fallout continues.
In the State Department’s Daily Press Briefing on Friday, Oct. 24, the spokesperson was asked about reports that Ya’alon’s request to meet with Kerry had been denied.
The senior reporter in the briefing, Matt Lee, of the Associated Press, asked the spokesperson about the alleged rebuff. Lee asked whether the denial of Ya’alon’s request was due to Kerry still being “peeved” by Ya’alon’s alleged remarks. Psaki sure seemed to be.
QUESTION: Okay. And then there are reports in Israel and elsewhere that Israeli Defense Minister Ya’alon was denied meetings or the Administration rejected requests from the Israelis for him to meet with, among other people, Secretary Kerry but also Susan Rice at the White House and Vice President Biden. And I’m just wondering, realizing you don’t speak for the White House, can you say if a meeting was sought with Secretary Kerry, who I believe was out of the country until – I know was out of the country until Wednesday night. Was there a meeting sought and denied?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything in terms of internal discussions about meetings to parlay to you, but he did meet with Defense Secretary Hagel, which – who is his counterpart, which is a natural standard procedure.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say that the Administration and particularly this building and then particularly Secretary Kerry are still a bit peeved with Defense Minister Ya’alon’s criticisms?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, as you know, Secretary Kerry has spoken to this himself shortly after the comments made by Defense Minister Ya’alon and made clear that he’d been the target of much worse than words. And I think obviously, he works closely with a range of Israeli officials and he didn’t meet with him this time. He’s met with him in the past and he met with Secretary Hagel, who is his counterpart.
However, Israel’s defense minister did meet with the influential Washington Post journalist Lally Weymouth, who began the wide-ranging interview asking about Ya’alon’s comments about Kerry, to which the minister of defense responded laconically, “We overcame that.”
Weymouth then asked about Kerry’s recent statement that the failure to resolve the “Israeli-Palestinian issue” is leading to street anger and recruitment for ISIS. Ya’alon did not mention Kerry by name, but said that the conflict “is dominated by too many misconceptions.” He pointed instead to the Sunni-Shia conflict as being the far more accurate linkage. In discussing the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict, Ya’alon made clear that territorial concessions are exactly the wrong tack for Israel to take, suggesting that another Hamastan would rise in Judea and Samaria.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus