The Obama administration’s mass snubbing of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon last week was designed to “humiliate” him, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported, adding that Obama officials would continue to “ostracize” him until Ya'alon further apologizes for off-the-record comments he made about Kerry more than nine months ago.
Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent for the newspaper, compared the Obama administration move to a “hazing.”
The public reprisal for the long-standing grudge prompted one Twitter user to quip, “So Obama does know how to deal with enemies.”
The Israeli newspaper Ynet first reported Friday that when he was in Washington last week, Ya'alon had requested meetings with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, but was rejected by all three.
The release of the information by unnamed administration officials was timed precisely for when Ya'alon’s plane landed in Israel and designed for maximum effect as Haaretz reported:
Despite the fact that Ya'alon's requests to meet with the senior members of the Obama administration were declined over a week ago, Washington waited until the visit ended before making the story public in order to humiliate the Israeli defense minister. Senior U.S. officials leaked the story to the Israeli news website Ynet, which was first to break the story, then to the AP news agency, and after that to the rest of the press. The first reports came out just after Ya'alon returned to Israel Friday afternoon.
Despite the wider rejection to meet him, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed Ya'alon to the Pentagon Tuesday with smiles and an embrace in front of press photographers.
"We were shocked by some of the comments that he has made in the past, so it should come as no surprise that he wasn't able to get some of the meetings he requested," a U.S. official told The Jerusalem Post. Nearly identical wording was provided to other Israeli media including Haaretz.
According to the Associated Press, administration officials tried to block a meeting that had already been arranged with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power but the internal objections were lodged too late to cancel.
Ya'alon in January described Kerry to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth as “obsessive” and “messianic” in his persistent pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, suggesting the secretary of state’s proposals did not meet Israel’s security requirements.
The Obama administration was further annoyed when Ya'alon in March said the U.S. was projecting “weakness” on a number of international fronts including efforts to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Haaretz reported that Ya'alon was surprised when he heard Friday that U.S. officials had leaked to the media that he had been denied meetings but now wants to avoid more strife. Thus, the Israeli defense ministry would not publicly respond to a request for comment by Haaretz.
Ravid, the reporter for the left-wing Haaretz, blamed Ya'alon for the ongoing crisis in relations. Ya'alon is a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
“The White House hazing suffered by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon as he landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday should surprise no one, least of all Ya’alon,” Ravid wrote. “One cannot humiliate and insult senior officials of the U.S. administration and expect the red carpet to be rolled out at the Department of State, or the door to the Oval Office to be opened.”
Shortly after his comments to the Israeli newspaper in January, Ya'alon apologized saying he had “no intention to cause any offense to the secretary.”
After his Iran comments, Israeli media reported that Ya'alon phoned Hagel and told him his words “were not intended to express opposition, criticism or offense to the United States.” Ya'alon said that he “greatly admired” the relationship and that maintaining strong ties with the U.S. was Israel’s utmost priority, the Jerusalem Post reported in March.
Given these latest reports on the snub, it appears neither attempt at an apology appears to have appeased the Obama administration.