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State Department rips Israeli defense minister comments

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March 10, 2014: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, left, examine dozens of mortar shells and rockets on display after being seized from the Panama-flagged KLOS C civilian cargo ship that Israel intercepted last Wednesday off the coast of Sudan, at a military port in the Red Sea city of Eilat, southern Israel. (AP)

The Obama administration on Wednesday vented its anger at public insults and criticism of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry by Israel's defense minister.

The State Department said Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest recent remarks by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who had accused the Obama administration of being weak on Iran and questioned its commitment to Israel's security. Previously, Yaalon has criticized Kerry personally for being unrealistic and naive in trying to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Yaalon's remarks were "not constructive" and "inconsistent" with the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

Psaki repeated Obama and Kerry's oft-stated position that the U.S. commitment to Israel's security is "unshakable," outlined several main elements of the longstanding U.S.-Israeli defense relationship and noted that Netanyahu himself has said the cooperation is now unprecedented.

"So, it is certainly confusing to us why Defense Minister Yaalon would continue his pattern of making comments that don't accurately represent the scope of our close partnership on a range of security issues and on the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel," Psaki told reporters.

She declined to characterize Netanyahu's response to Kerry's protests and referred questions about that to the Israeli government.

In remarks quoted in Israeli reports on Tuesday, Yaalon criticized the U.S. for not leading a campaign against Iran. He has been previously quoted as saying Kerry is "obsessive" and "messianic" about Middle East peace.