Kerry phones Netanyahu to complain about insults

Secretary of State John Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning to protest insults the Israeli defense minister directed at the Obama administration this week, the State Department said. 

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Ya'alon called Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Wednesday night to clarify his remarks, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said. 

“Minister Ya'alon clarified his remarks by underscoring his commitment to the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” he said. 

 Hagel expressed “deep concern,” Kirby said, over the comments and reiterated the U.S. is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. 

Israeli media reports on Wednesday said Ya-alon had phoned Hagel to apologize for the comments.

 

In a speech at Tel Aviv University on Monday, Ya’alon criticized President Obama for having a weak foreign policy, and said Israel could no longer rely on the United States to lead nuclear negotiations with Iran. 

“Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning. And he protested to him his concerns about these comments,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday.

The U.S., Psaki reaffirmed, maintains an “unshakable commitment” to Israel’s security.

“So it is certainly confusing to us why Defense Minister Ya'alon 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,” she said.

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On Monday, Ya’alon slammed the Obama administration for the slow progress on nuclear talks with Iran. It was not the first time he has been critical of the U.S. 

“If we wished others would do the work for us, it wouldn't be done soon, and therefore in this matter, we have to behave as if we can only rely on ourselves," he said. 

America’s power in the world is becoming increasingly diminished, Ya’alon argued.

“Weakness certainly does not pay in the world," he said. "No one can replace the U.S. as the world's policeman. I hope the U.S. will come to its senses.”

Ya’alon’s comments were “not constructive” and “inconsistent,” said Psaki, who added they don’t reflect the government of Israel.

While Psaki declined to describe the conversation between Kerry and Netanyahu, she said Kerry “has a tough skin and is happy to move on beyond this.”

Asked if the U.S. would like an apology, she said, “We're ready to move forward and keep talking about the peace process.”

Jeremy Herb contributed to this story.

This story was updated at 12:48 p.m.