Congress has been notified of the possible sale of six V-22 Ospreys to Israel. (US Navy)
TEL AVIV — The Pentagon notified Congress of a possible $1.13 billion sale of V-22s to Israel on Jan. 14, the same day that Israel’s leading daily published a verbal assault on Washington’s top diplomat attributed to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon.
If consummated, the prospective package of six Bell Boeing V-22B Block C tilt rotors and associated support gear will be funded through annual US grant military aid to Israel.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the Pentagon’s approval of the prospective sale during a trip to Israel last April hosted by Ya’alon, his Israeli counterpart.
Since then, US and Israeli defense chiefs have discussed a range of options aimed at expediting deliveries to the Israeli Air Force, including a possible US government-backed loan guarantee and pre-emption of ongoing production for the US Marine Corps to accommodate Israel’s request for rush builds.
In its Jan. 14 announcement, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) described the prospective sale as vital to US national interests and US commitments to Israeli security.
Earlier that day, a tempest had already begun to rage over banner headlines in Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s leading daily newspaper, attributing scathing, ad hominem criticism of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Defense Minister Ya’alon.
According to the newspaper, Ya’alon assailed Kerry for being “inexplicably obsessive” and “messianic” in attempts to forge a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestine Authority. A specific security plan drafted over the past six months by retired US Gen. John Allen, Kerry’s point man in ongoing US-led negotiations, was dismissed, according to the paper, as “not being worth the paper it’s written on.”
Ya’alon, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces and a leading security hawk in the coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has not denied the report, although aides said published sentiments were not supposed to have been made public.
In an attempt to calm the situation, Ya’alon’s office published a clarification in the afternoon of Jan. 14 that accented “intimate and extremely significant security ties” between the two countries. In his clarification, Ya’alon said disagreements between the two friends and partners — “including with Secretary of State Kerry with whom I have long and many discussions concerning Israel’s future” — should be worked out “behind closed doors.”
However, that statement was insufficient to satisfy Washington. After midnight Jan. 14, Ya’alon’s office released a second statement, which aides concede was at the behest of Netanyahu. It read:
“Israel and the United States share a common goal to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary Kerry. We appreciate Secretary Kerry’s many efforts towards that end. The defense minister had no intention to cause any offense to the secretary, and he apologizes if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister.” ■