Kerry’s hurt feelings

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alomDefense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was forced to apologize for having seemingly slighted US Secretary of State John Kerry when he referred to his continual shuttles to Israel and the Palestinian Authority as “messianic” and “obsessive.” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki described Ya’alon’s words as “offensive and inappropriate.”

That wasn’t all. Ya’alon’s criticism was blown up into a major diplomatic confrontation when an unnamed ”senior US official” demanded that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “put this right by publicly expressing his disagreement with the statements against Secretary Kerry, the negotiations with the Palestinians and Kerry’s commitment to Israel’s security.”

This virtual ultimatum turned the entire incident quite overtly into a round of arm-wrestling in which Washington appeared determined to push Jerusalem’s arm down decisively.

But is any of this really about the emotional pain which Ya’alon purportedly inflicted on Kerry?

The notion that breaches of courtesy are insufferable in international relations is disingenuous in the very least. Otherwise, why would the current US administration adopt so lenient an attitude toward Iran, where America is daily denigrated as “the Big Satan?” The PA’s own higher-ups have themselves not shied away from verbal onslaughts on the US. Nevertheless, there were no reactions similar to that which greeted Ya’alon’s comment.

Moreover, the topmost American movers and shakers haven’t been excessively gracious toward their Israeli counterparts.

Memorably, a couple of years ago US President Barack Obama chitchatted chummily with French president Nicolas Sarkozy during the G20 summit in Cannes, both unaware that the microphone before them hadn’t been switched off. “I can’t stand him. He’s a liar,” a chagrined Sarkozy blurted in reference to Netanyahu. Sarkozy’s feathers were just then reportedly ruffled because Netanyahu didn’t credit him with Gilad Schalit’s release.

Pointedly, Obama not only failed to defend Netanyahu but he actually expressed unreserved agreement with his French interlocutor. “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama complained.

The trouble was that this frank articulation of unambiguous aversion towards Israel’s democratically elected head of government – a staunch ally of America – was inadvertently broadcast to journalists covering the event.

No hint of an apology ever came from either Washington or Paris. Of course, it may be argued that what Obama and Sarkozy said was uttered in a private conversation that was not intended to be made public and hence their private comments don’t count.

However, that also happens to be how Ya’alon came to say what he did. He was engaged in an entirely private conversation, not intended for the public’s ear. The one difference is that Obama’s opinion was revealed by an open mic whereas Ya’alon’s was by a tabloid reporter who leaked an off-the-record remark.

To be sure, it is always desirable for diplomacy to be conducted without verbal fisticuffs, in an air of polite exchanges, not inflamed by unnecessary distractions. But sadly in the real world what is desirable isn’t always likely.

No one – not in Washington nor in Jerusalem – is made of plastic and can be twisted into a mold. It’s the nature of antipathies that they eventually rise to the surface. More often than not, they are prudently glossed over – as Netanyahu chose to do in reaction to the badmouthing at Cannes.

However, when a great fuss is kicked up over private pronouncements, we must ask ourselves why. Diplomacy isn’t about sensibilities but about interests.

It is the distinct duty of Israeli leaders to make sure that the most vital existential interests of this country, as they perceive them to be, are not compromised. Israelis too are entitled to hold views and to express them.

Their counterparts abroad have no right to impose silence upon them. Indeed, politicians/statesmen/diplomats should not pretend to be offended. When they do, this inevitably becomes a facet of the power games they play and pressures they exert.

All headliners say things in confidence and all know full well what the other side thinks. They should conduct their affairs as politely as possible. But flying off the handle and taking public umbrage for private banter isn’t only self-indulgent but also imperious.

14 thoughts on “Kerry’s hurt feelings

    • Are the American military personnel lives saved in Iraq by Israel’s bombing the Osirak reactor in 1981 not important?

  1. Ya’alon shouldn’t have apologized. Obama and Kerry are not apologizing for trying to destroy Israel, Obama even talked of the 67′ lines, which is suicide for Israel. Send the idiot packing!

  2. As always your remarks cut through all the hypocrisy and diplomatic “double-speak” like a knife through butter. In fact the despicable remarks exchanged by Obama and Sarkozy regarding Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are exponentially more insulting and inappropriate and speak volumes more about these two “gentlemen” than Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s comments reflect about him.

    Indeed there was a far larger element of truth in Ya’alon’s words than there ever was in the quite nasty, even vicious, words exchanged by those other referenced parties.

    But then nothing has changed in two thousand years and likely will not change for another two thousand years. The Tribe has always received the short end of the stick and been unfairly vilified at each and every opportunity. We should be used to that fact by now but that does not make it any easier to grin and bare such events.

    Good for Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for saying what needed to be said.
    There will always be people who cannot handle the truth- more is the pity for them.

  3. “During the Geneva talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was all smiles, fluent English, and bonhomie. The photos of him and Catherine Ashton, the former British Labor Party politician and now the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, sharing toothy laughs are striking. She seemed unaware that, back in Tehran, Iran’s dictator, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had not toned down his fire-and-brimstone sermons and speeches at all. Addressing members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at the Grand Mosque the day the Geneva nuclear negotiations began, the supreme leader declared that in the “military, political, and economic wars, in every arena where there is a test of strength, you, the believer, must stand firm against the enemy [the United States], your will must overcome the determination of the enemy.” Khamenei added that there was a need for “heroic flexibility”—a concept, he made clear, that does not imply “abandoning the ideals and aims of the Islamic regime.” What it means instead: “clever, artful maneuvering that allows for the believer to achieve his goals.”

    Ample evidence and years of experience lead to the conclusion that those goals include the development of a nuclear-weapons capability, if not weapons themselves, and that Iran’s rulers seek that capability in order to (1) establish hegemony in the Middle East, (2) protect the terrorists they sponsor abroad, (3) entrench their oppressive rule at home, (4) diminish American power globally, and (5) continue to incite and threaten genocide against Israel.

    Asked about the supreme leader’s remarks, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, defaulted to diplomatic understatement. “Comments like these are not helpful,” she said. She then added: “But we still believe that both sides are negotiating in good faith.”

    (Leonard May – The Persian Triangle)

    Seems as though Jennifer Psaki (apparently following instructions from Secretary of State Kerry) has different standards when it comes to Israel’s Minister of Defence and Iran’s Supreme Leader.

    Kerry continues his journey on the way to assured consignment to the political scrapheap. The only question is – how much damage will he do before that happens?

  4. Always a big relief, to have you back Sarah. xxx

    Of course Moshe Ya’alon is 100 % right…WE ALL knew it and now everyone knows it !
    It’s beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Kerry is a champion of Arab interests and an ENEMY of Israel…just like his boss.
    The “talks” are just a charade, forced upon Israel, to make the American “friends” happy.
    Those false friends would LOVE, to carve up the land of Israel, to get the applause of ALL the combined Jew haters on the whole of the planet.
    Israel was bullied, to agree to those treacherous talks and to abstain from official disagreement.
    The Defense Minister did the best thing he could, to let the American “friends” and the rest of the world know, what the ***BIG*** majority of Israelis really think !
    His apology is just business as usual and barely worth mentioning.
    Obamas lackeys are of course not amused…now that their disgusting conduct has come to light.


  5. Who made Ya’alon apologize? The only one who it could have been was Bibi. If so he should apologize the the Israeli people. Israel has taken this sort of abuse for far too long. Apparently it’s fine for the arabs to call for the destruction of Israel and continue to insult Jews and Israel on a daily basis. I wish Ya’alon had had the courage to make an even bigger stink and refuse to apologize. The world hypocrisy is appalling but par for the course. All protestations aside, obama et al would be quite happy with the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of a people.

  6. Ya’alon was absolutely right. All the evidence proves he was right.
    The People of Israel know that he was right.
    Any “apology” will be seen, quite correctly, not as repudiation of Ya’alon’s assessments, but as a diplomatic gesture, so let’s not get too excited about any “apology.” Israel has nothing to apologise for.
    The USA is important for Israel, but the USA has its own interests and these come first for it of course.
    But the USA needs to accept that for Israelis their interests come first.
    It’s normal.
    Sarah Honig is correct, however, in pointing out that the USA has reacted disproportionately to Ya’alon in contrast to its reactions to perceived slights from other sources.
    Well, maybe the Obama administration thinks that Israel is its vassal?

  7. Welcome back! I trust you are refreshed and ready for the fray!Unfortunately we have not stamped out antisemitism in your absence! We’ll need a few more days!

  8. Thank you for always reminding the world that the leaders of the State of Israel have always walked as Giants among men from David Ben-Gurion to Golda Meir, to Menachem Begin to, (may G-d continue to assist him), the fearless,Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Compared to such leaders named above, most of today’s elected politicians are like children, which is to say, far from fit to be responsible for the safety and destinies of entire nations.

    Perhaps Prime Minister Begin said it best when push came to shove. A fact that is worth remembering.

    Please See Below:

    “Israel Is Not A Banana Republic” –
    Begin’s Rebuttle Of Reagan, State Dept., on “Punishing” Israel

    Statement by Prime Minister Begin on U.S. Measures Against Israel, 20 December 1981.

    In an unprecedented move, Mr. Begin summoned the United States ambassador to Israel, and read to him the following statement. It was later read to the cabinet and issued to the public. Mr. Begin complained that the U.S. had punished Israel three times in the past six months. Israel was no “vassal state” or a “banana republic.”

    He also hinted of anti-Semitic overtones in some of the punitive measures taken by the United States.

    Text of Prime Minister Begin’s exact words on 20 December 1981 follows below:

    “Three times during the past six months, the U.S. Government has “punished” Israel.

    On June 7 we destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor “Osirak” near Baghdad. I don’t want to mention to you today from whom we received the final information that this reactor was going to produce atomic bombs. We had no doubt about that: therefore our action was an act of salvation, an act of national self-defense in the most lofty sense of the concept. We saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, including tens of thousands of children.

    Nonetheless, you announced that you were punishing us – and you left unfilled a signed and sealed contract that included specific dates for the supply of (war) planes.

    Not long after, in a defensive act – after a slaughter was committed against our people leaving three dead (including an Auschwitz survivor) and 29 were injured we bombed the PLO headquarters in Beirut.

    You have no moral right to preach to us about civilian casualties. We have read the history of World War Two and we know what happened to civilians when you took action against an enemy. We have also read the history of the Vietnam war and your phrase “body-count”. We always make efforts to avoid hitting civilian populations, but sometimes it is unavoidable – as was the case in our bombing of the PLO headquarters.

    We sometimes risk the lives of our soldiers to avoid civilian casualties.

    Nonetheless, you punished us: you suspended delivery of F-15 planes.

    A week ago, at the instance of the Government, the Knesset passed on all three readings by an overwhelming majority of two-thirds, the “Golan Heights Law.”

    Now you once again declare that you are punishing Israel.

    What kind of expression is this – “punishing Israel”? Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we youths of fourteen who, if they don’t behave properly, are slapped across the fingers?

    Let me tell you who this government is composed of. It is composed of people whose lives were spent in resistance, in fighting and in suffering. You will not frighten us with “punishments”. He who threatens us will find us deaf to his threats. We are only prepared to listen to rational arguments.

    You have no right to “punish” Israel – and I protest at the very use of this term.

    You have announced that you are suspending consultations on the implementation of the memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation, and that your return to these consultations in the future will depend on progress achieved in the autonomy talks and on the situation in Lebanon.

    You want to make Israel a hostage of the memorandum of understanding.

    I regard your announcement suspending the consultations on the memorandum of as the abrogation (by you) of the memorandum. No “sword of Damocles” is going to hang over our head. So we duly take note of the fact that you have abrogated the memorandum of understanding.

    The people of Israel has lived 3,700 years without a memorandum of understanding with America – and it will continue to live for another 3,700. In our eyes it (i.e., the U.S. suspension) is an abrogation of the memorandum.

    We will not agree that you should demand of us to allow the Arabs of East Jerusalem to take part in the autonomy elections – and threaten us that if we don’t consent you will suspend the memorandum.

    You have imposed upon us financial punishments – and have (thereby) violated the word of the President. When Secretary Haig was here he read from a written document the words of President Reagan that you would purchase 200 million dollars worth of Israel arms and other equipment. Now you say it will not be so.

    This is therefore a violation of the President’s word. Is it customary? Is it proper?

    You cancelled an additional 100 million dollars. What did you want to do – to “hit us in our pocket”?

    In 1946 there lived in this house a British general by the name of Barker. Today I live here. When we fought him, you called us “terrorists” – and we carried on fighting. After we attacked his headquarters in the requisitioned building of the King David Hotel, Barker said: “This race will only be influenced by being hit in the pocket” – and he ordered his soldiers to stop patronizing Jewish cafes.

    To hit us in the pocket – this is the philosophy of Barker. Now I understand why the whole great effort in the Senate to obtain a majority for the arms deal with Saudi Arabia was accompanied by an ugly campaign of anti-Semitism.

    First, the slogan was sounded “Begin or Reagan?” – and that meant that whoever opposes the deal is supporting a foreign prime minister and is not loyal to the President of the United States. And thus Senators like Jackson, Kennedy, Packwood and of course Boschwitz are not loyal citizens.

    Then the slogan was sounded “We should not let the Jews determine the foreign policy of the United States.” What was the meaning of this slogan? The Greek minority in the U.S. did much to determine the Senate decision to withhold weapons from Turkey after it invaded Cyprus. No one will frighten the great and free Jewish community of the U.S., no one will succeed in cowing them with anti-Semitic propaganda. They will stand by our side. This is the land of their forefathers – and they have a right and a duty to support it.

    Some say we must “rescind” the law passed by the Knesset. “To rescind” is a concept from the days of the Inquisition. Our forefathers went to the stake rather than “rescind” their faith.

    We are not going to the stake. Thank God. We have enough strength to defend our independence and to defend our rights.

    If it were up to me (alone) I would say we should not rescind the law. But as far as I can judge there is in fact no one on earth who can persuade the Knesset to rescind the law which it passed by a two-thirds majority.

    Mr. Weinberger – and later Mr. Haig – said that the law adversely affects UN Resolution 242. Whoever says that has either not read the Resolution or has forgotten it, or has not understood it.

    The essence of the Resolution is negotiation to determine agreed and recognized borders. Syria has announced that it will not conduct negotiations with us, that it does not and will not recognize us – and thus removed from Resolution 242 its essence. How, therefore, could we adversely affect 242?

    As regards the future, please be kind enough to inform the Secretary of, State that the Golan Heights Law will remain valid. There is no force on earth that can bring about its rescission.

    As for the contention that we surprised you, the truth is that we did not want to embarrass you. We knew your difficulties. You come to Riyadh and Damascus. It was President Reagan who said that Mr. Begin was right – that had Israel told the U.S. about the law (in advance) the U.S. would have said no. We did not want you to say no – and then go ahead and apply Israeli law to the Golan Heights.

    Our intention was not to embarrass you.

    As regards Lebanon, I have asked that the Secretary of State be informed that we will not attack, but if we are attacked, we will counterattack.”

    Prime Minister Menachem Begin, 20 December 1981


  9. This is another example of the Middle East double standard. The Arabs and Iranians are held to a standard that is considered below the European norm, while we in Israel are held to a higher, European standard. Kerry is a fool and should be ashamed of himself for his ridiculous response, and Bibi should sulk away with his tail between his legs for allowing the idiots in Washington to once again dictate how we are to behave. Shame on both of them.

  10. Having seen murderer Arafat’s ascension to Nobel Prize status, Bin Laden, too, tried his hand at the techniques, adding the US itself to his list. Those are the chickens that came to roost, as a result of the peace process, and if Kerry gets his way there will doubtless be more.

  11. Iranian official press (that means ALL irarian press incitates against Israel,the jewish people, US – the Great Satan – and Western Europe. No problem at all to Barack Hussein Obama!!

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