Israeli Minister’s Reported Criticism of Kerry Spurs U.S. Rebuke

The Israeli defense minister’s reported denigration of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace efforts drew American ire and accusations of Israeli ingratitude.

The Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported today that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon characterized Kerry as having an obsessive, “messianic” zeal to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Kerry’s plan to provide security arrangements for Israel as part of the peace package “is not worth the paper it’s written on,” Ya’alon said, according to the newspaper.

“The only thing that will ‘save’ us is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us alone,” the newspaper cited him as saying. It did not explain how it obtained the information, and Ya’alon didn’t deny the report.

The report highlights tensions between Israel and the U.S. as Kerry prepares to present Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a blueprint meant to guide talks toward a final peace accord. Netanyahu tried to contain damage by declaring that any differences with the U.S. are “not personal.”

In an e-mailed statement addressing the report, Ya’alon called relations with the U.S. “close and very significant to us.”

“When we have differences, we discuss them behind closed doors, including with Secretary of State Kerry, with whom I have had many discussions about Israel’s future. I will continue to resolutely, responsibly and judiciously safeguard the security of Israel’s citizens,” he said.

‘Offensive and Inappropriate’

State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the remarks, “if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel’s security needs.”

Kerry and his team, “have been working day and night to try to promote a secure peace for Israel, because of the Secretary’s deep concern for Israel’s future,” Psaki said in an e-mailed statement. “To question his motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally.”

Speaking today in the Israeli parliament, Netanyahu took pains to stress the two allies’ close ties and shared values.

“When we do have disagreements with the U.S., they are always on matters of substance, and not personal,” Netanyahu said. “We are working with the president of the United States, with the vice-president who just visited here and with his secretary of state, with the goal of advancing peace, security and regional stability.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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