Israel apologises for John Kerry 'obsession' comments

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon (centre) at an urban warfare army training facility, near Zeelim, southern Israel (July 2013) Mr Yaalon (centre) was quoted as accusing Mr Kerry of "incomprehensible obsession"

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has apologised for quotes that appeared in a newspaper that lambasted US Secretary of State John Kerry's role in the Middle East peace process.

Mr Yaalon was quoted as saying that Mr Kerry was acting out of "misplaced obsession and messianic fervour".

The US state department expressed anger at the remarks.

However, in a statement, Mr Yaalon's office said that he had no intention to cause any offence.

"The defence minister... apologises if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister."

Israel and the US shared "a common goal" of advancing peace talks with the Palestinians, the statement said.

"We appreciate Secretary Kerry's many efforts towards that end."

The White House said the alleged comments were "inappropriate" given America's support to Israel's security.

It was a rare rebuke to America's ally.

The BBC's Barbara Plett Usher in New York says that Mr Yaalon's alleged comments - first published by Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper - may reflect the mind-set of other government officials, but Israelis want to protect their relationship with their strongest ally.

'Framework' plan

Mr Yaalon said a security plan that Mr Kerry had presented to Israel was "not worth the paper it was written on".

"John Kerry - who has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and messianic fervour - cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians," he was quoted as saying.

Israeli-Palestinian talks

  • Palestinian team leaders: Saeb Erekat and Muhammed Shtayyeh
  • Israeli team leaders: Tzipi Livni and Isaac Molcho
  • US mediators: Martin Indyk and Frank Lowenstein
  • Key issues: Status of Jerusalem; borders; security arrangements; settlements and possible land swaps; Palestinian refugees

He expressed the hope that Mr Kerry, who has made 10 trips to Israel since March, would terminate his drive for peace and focus his energies elsewhere.

"The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be," he was quoted as saying.

Mr Yaalon made his comments in private conversations in Israel and the US, the Israeli newspaper said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney accused the minister of misrepresenting Mr Kerry's proposals.

"Secretary Kerry and his team have been working non-stop in their efforts to promote a secure peace for Israel because of the deep concern the United States has, and the deep commitment the United States has for and to Israel's future and the Israeli people.

"To question his motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defence minister of a close ally."

Mr Yaalon's comments also drew criticism from Mr Netanyahu.

Mr Kerry has in recent months attempted to inject momentum into Israeli-Palestinian peace talks re-launched last July.

US Secretary of State John Kerryat Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv Mr Kerry is a regular visitor to Israel as part of his efforts to reach a peace deal in the Middle East

But the talks have so far shown little sign of progress.

Earlier this month, he held talks with Israeli and Palestinian representatives in an effort to secure a "framework" for a final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

However, Israel is said to be demanding that it maintains a military presence under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

While the peace talks have been continuing, Israel last week announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

A dispute over settlement construction led to the collapse of the last peace talks.

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