By Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel’s defense minister has apologized to his U.S. counterpart for criticizing Washington and for calling it weak when it comes to its stance on Iran’s nuclear program.

A statement from Moshe Yaalon’s office late Wednesday said he phoned U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and told him he hadn’t intended to harm relations between the two close allies.

“I have a very deep appreciation for the ties between the states and for you personally,” Yaalon told Hagel, according to the statement. “I am fully committed to these ties and to cooperation between Israel and the United States in any form.”

This week, Yaalon questioned Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security. He said Israel cannot depend on the United States to lead any action against Iran’s nuclear program and can only rely on itself.

Earlier, he also criticized U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, saying the top American diplomat was unrealistic and naive in trying to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

In a statement Thursday, the Defense Department said Hagel “expressed deep concern” to Yaalon about his remarks.

Kerry on Wednesday called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest Yaalon’s remarks. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that Kerry has “remaining concerns about the pattern” of Yaalon’s comments.


Associated Press writers Lara Jakes and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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