JERUSALEM: Israel’s Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon apologized on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) to US Secretary of State John Kerry after he accused the American of having an “obsession” with Middle East peace, sparking a furious diplomatic row between the two allies.

    The White House had described Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s initial comments as “offensive,” in a mark of the degree of outrage in Washington at the latest public spat between the two countries, which follows a major row over Iran policy.

    However, in a statement, a contrite Yaalon said: “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 American officials, revealed by the top-selling Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, Yaalon was quoted as expressing the hope that Kerry, who has made 10 trips to Israel since March, 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,” Yaalon was quoted as saying, accusing Kerry of being naive.

    “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,” Yaalon reportedly 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 President Barack Obama and of Netanyahu.

    US President Barack Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney said Yaalon’s remarks “if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially in the light of everything Secretary Kerry is doing to support Israel’s security needs.”

    “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 the deep commitment the United States has for and to Israel’s future and the Israeli people,” Carney said.

    “To question Secretary Kerry’s motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally.”



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