Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched his defense chief, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, to Washington, to help smooth the way for his own visit next week, which will be his first since President Barack Obama defeated his counterproductive campaign to sink the Iran nuclear agreement.
Those who follow Israeli politics, and who have tracked the downs (no substantial ups have been visible lately) in the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama, know that tasking the almost comically un-smooth Ya’alon, an ex-commando and dairy farmer, with a delicate diplomatic mission was a risky proposition. Last year, Ya’alon infuriated the White House by stating publicly that “the only thing that can save us is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.” Ya’alon, a former Israeli army chief of staff, is a one-time supporter of the Oslo peace process who now argues against the creation of a Palestinian state, and who also believes, like his prime minister, that the Iran nuclear deal contains the seeds of disaster for his country.
Ya’alon, on his preparatory visit, somehow managed to dodge the usual minefields, and he mainly held his tongue. “The Iran deal is a given,” he said last Wednesday. “Our disputes are over. And now we have to look to the future.”
Credit for managing Ya’alon, and for stabilizing the Israel-U.S. relationship, should be assigned to U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who hosted Ya’alon and who appears to have been directed by a White House exhausted and frustrated by Netanyahu to oversee large parts of the Israeli portfolio during Obama’s remaining time in office.