Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon on Tuesday apologized to US Secretary of State John Kerry after accusing him of having an “obsession” with peace in the Middle East, sparking a furious row between the two allies.
The White House described Ya’alon’s initial comments as “offensive,” in a mark of the degree of Washington’s outrage at the latest public spat between the two countries, which follows a major dispute over Iran policy.
A contrite Ya’alon said in a statement that “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.”
In private conversations with Israeli and US officials revealed by Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot, Ya’alon was quoted as saying he hoped that Kerry, who has made 10 trips to Israel since March last year, would end his peace push and focus his energies elsewhere.
“The American plan for security arrangements that was shown to us isn’t worth the paper it was written on,” the paper quoted Ya’alon as saying.
“Secretary of State John Kerry — who arrived here determined and who operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism — can’t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians,” the report said. “The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be.”
His comments provoked fury in Washington causing fresh tension between the governments of US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
White spokesman Jay Carney said the remarks “if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially in the light of everything Secretary Kerry is doing to support Israel’s security needs.”
A US Department of State official urged Netanyahu to publicly disavow the minister’s comments.
“We expect the prime minister to put this right by expressing publicly his disagreement with the statements against Secretary Kerry,” the official told reporters.
Speaking in the Israeli parliament, Netanyahu chided Ya’alon for the personal nature of the comments, but did not take issue with his remarks about US policy.
“Even when we have disagreements with the United States, it is about the matter at hand and not about the person,” Netanyahu said.