Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s comments last weekend about Israel are disturbing. We agree with Abraham Foxman (see page 18) that President Barack Obama must repudiate the statements clearly and unambiguously.

Also coming in for criticism for remarks she made last weekend is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. In her case, the criticism is unjustified. The secretary addressed the same Brookings Institution forum at which Panetta spoke, but her remarks came during a closed-door session and were meant to be off the record, although why any politician believes that “off the record” means anything these days is beyond us.

According to news reports, Clinton said she was worried about the state of Israel’s democracy. Specifically, she reportedly criticized legislation that would prohibit non-governmental agencies on the left from accepting donations from outside Israel; the continuing dispute over gender segregation on some Israeli bus lines; and proposed legislation that would make it easier in Israel to sue a journalist for libel.

Panetta’s remarks deserved to be criticized. Clinton, however, merely addressed in private the same issues being publicly addressed by Jewish organizations here, many of whom share her fears. Sometimes, friends need to tell other friends when they are wrong.