Israel’s Lapid Says Relations With U.S. in ‘Crisis’

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid told a gathering in Tel Aviv today that relations between Israel and the U.S. are in a “crisis.”

The administration of President Barack Obama blocked some senior officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, from meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon during his recent visit to the U.S., Ynet website reported yesterday. The decision was meant to signal displeasure with Ya’alon’s criticism of U.S. efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and Obama’s policy on Iran, the website reported.

“There is a crisis with the Americans and it has to be treated like a crisis,” Lapid said, according to comments relayed in an e-mail by his spokesman. “Relations with the U.S. are critical and important to Israel, and everything must be done to resolve the crisis and restore good ties.” Lapid didn’t mention Ya’alon in his comments.

Ya’alon accused U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this year of making “messianic” efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord and later apologized. He also questioned the U.S. resolve to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons, an objective the Iranians say they do not seek.

While the Israeli defense minister was denied access to Biden, Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, he did meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers, Ynet reported. The Associated Press said yesterday that the meeting went ahead because U.S. officials didn’t act quickly enough to cancel it.

A spokesman for Ya’alon couldn’t be reached by phone, and a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no immediate comment.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday he couldn’t talk about meetings that didn’t occur. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she didn’t have anything to say on internal discussions about meetings.

Psaki told reporters yesterday Ya’alon met his counterpart Hagel, which was “natural standard procedure.”

She sidestepped a question about whether Kerry had meant to snub Ya’alon.

Kerry “works closely with a range of Israeli officials and he didn’t meet with him this time,” Psaki said.

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