Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon
Photo: Defense Ministry
WASHINGTON – The US administration prevented Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon from meeting with key officials during his visit to Washington, DC, American sources told Ynet on Friday.
The defense ministry did not comment, though sources close to Ya'alon said "the aim was to meet with the security echelon, and that was what happened."
Ya'alon arrived on Tuesday to meet his counterpart, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and American intelligence officials. The Obama administration, however, refused the Israeli defense minister's request to meet with other top officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
The rejection was diplomatic blowback from Ya'alon's remarks on Kerry, which were first revealed by Yedioth Ahronoth. The Israeli politician had called the top US diplomat "messianic and obsessive" behind closed doors, adding that "the only thing that could save us is Kerry winning a Nobel Peace Prize and leaving us alone."
Unlike his predecessor in the job, Ehud Barak – who used to make diplomatic overtures during his Washington visits – the US administration refused to set any such meetings for Ya'alon.
Previous defense ministers would often be honored by drop-in visit by the president, who would stop to chat with the Israeli guest even without an appointment – Ya'alon did not receive such a gesture.
On the diplomatic front, Ya'alon met with the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, the only other key official to sit down with the Israeli defense minister aside from Hagel. But he received little respite from the sour reception, as Power emphasized her grievance with settlement construction beyond the Green Line.
The defense ministry did not issue an official response. Sources close to Ya'alon said that "the aim of the trip was to meet with Hagel and the top security echelon in the US, and that happened. These meetings proved once again the strength of the ties between the defense establishments and between Ya'alon and Hagel."