Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was denied meetings with top American officials during his visit to the United States this week, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Friday, citing officials in Washington.
While Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon did see Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, the officials said the White House and State Department rejected Israeli proposals for meetings with Vice President Joe Biden, national security adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry.
The officials also revealed that the Obama administration had sought to stop Ya’alon from seeing Power, but the objections were made too late to cancel the meeting.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the snubs.
Ya’alon met with Hagel at the Pentagon on Tuesday. Kerry himself was out of the country until late Wednesday, but the officials said pointedly that a meeting with the secretary of state could have been arranged before Ya’alon departs the U.S.
The State Department declined to comment on internal deliberations about who Ya’alon should see, but noted that the meeting with his counterpart Hagel was “a natural, standard procedure.”
Visiting Israeli defense ministers, including Ya’alon’s immediate predecessor Ehud Barak, have in the past been granted meetings with senior U.S. officials other than their direct counterparts.
This week’s refusals come amid increasingly strained U.S.-Israel relations, particularly over criticism of Kerry by several members of the Israeli cabinet, including Ya’alon, according to AP.
Several months ago Ya’alon was quoted as describing Kerry as “obsessive and messianic.”
The U.S. responded with shock, calling the remarks “offensive” and “inappropriate.” Ya’alon later apologized for the remarks, stating that he had no intention of “offending” Kerry.
In a more recent incident, Kerry blamed Israel for the rise in global jihadism, insisting that Israel “humiliated” the Palestinian Arabs and that it has led to a “loss of dignity,” leading to a recruitment draw toward ISIS.
In response, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett fired back at Kerry, saying, “Even when a British Muslim beheads a British Christian, there will always be those who blame the Jews.”
“We don’t justify terror; we fight terror,” he added. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict statement encourages ISIS, and is a boost to terrorism worldwide.”
Bennett’s remarks, however, were met with criticism within Israel. Among those who criticized Bennett was Ya’alon, who said that Bennett’s criticism lacks respect for the financial and diplomatic support the U.S. has provided for Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas terrorism.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)