Israeli defense minister apologizes to Kerry

Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon speaks during a swearing-in ceremony, at the Knesset, Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem March 18, 2013. (Reuters)

Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon apologized Tuesday to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for accusing the American of having an “obsession and a messianic feeling” towards the Middle East.

Yaalon said in a statement that he “had no intention to cause any offence to the secretary, and he apologizes if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister.”

“Israel and the United states share a common goal to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary Kerry,” he added.

Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper quoted Yaalon earlier as saying “John Kerry - who has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling - cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict with the Palestinians.”

“The American plan for security arrangements that was shown to us... provides neither security nor peace,” Yaalon added.

He further said the plan “isn’t worth the paper it was written on,” accusing Kerry of being naive and implying that he is a nuisance.

The United States denounced Yaloon’s statements as “offensive.”

“The remarks of the Israeli Defense Minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially in light of everything that the United States is doing to support Israel’s security needs,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“Secretary Kerry and his team have been working nonstop in their efforts to promote a secure peace for Israel because of the deep concern the United States has and a deep commitment the United States has for and to Israel’s future and the Israeli people,” Carney added.

He said questioning “Kerry’s motives and distort proposals is not something that we would except from the defense minister of a close ally."

Kerry has tried to push Israelis and Palestinians towards an elusive peace deal after decades of conflict, shuttling back and forth in 10 visits to the region since March.

His proposals include a security plan for the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan, including the use of satellite technology to monitor the situation on the ground, local media say.

Israel insists on maintaining a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley, but the Palestinians reject that, instead urging deployment of an international force.

Kerry was reported by Yediot as saying the security plan would make Israel’s eastern border “the quietest in the world, more than the border between Canada and the United States.”

Peace talks, which Kerry kick-started in July after a three-year hiatus, have been shrouded in secrecy thanks to a U.S.-imposed media blackout.

[With AFP and Reuters]

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