Chuck Hagel witnesses a familiar act

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has walked back his harsh statements about the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Ya’alon had declared that Israel cannot rely on the U.S. to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, accused the administration of broadcasting weakness throughout the world, and warned that its perceived weakness was inviting further terrorism against U.S. targets.

Ya’alon told his U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel that his comments “were not intended to express opposition, criticism or offense to the United States.” (Is it significant that he said the United States, not its current president?) Ya’alon added that maintaining strong ties with the United States is Israel’s utmost priority.

I find it delicious that Ya’alon performed his “walking back” act for Hagel. As readers will recall, Hagel had to walk back his criticisms of Israel as part of a “confirmation conversion” following his nomination for Secretary of Defense. Hagel had, among other anti-Israel remarks, agreed that Israel has committed war crimes; characterized its 2006 campaign against Hezbollah as a “sickening slaughter”; and complained that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates Congress into excessive support of Israel.

When asked during his Senate confirmation about some of these statements, Hagel said they were taken out of context. Ya’alon now uses the same dodge.

In reality, of course, Ya’alon said exactly what he meant and certainly intended to castigate President Obama’s policies. Similarly, Hagel said exactly what he meant and certainly intended to castigate Israel.