Israel’s defense minister — a key member of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s diplomatic entourage in negotiations with the U.S. and the Palestinians — wishes that the “obsessive and messianic” secretary of state John Kerry would just “get a Nobel Peace Prize and leave us in peace.” That’s “the only thing that can save us,” he said.
Yediot Ahronot, a Tel Aviv–based daily newspaper, quoted the minister, Moshe Yaalon, saying behind closed doors that “the American security plan presented to us is not worth the paper it is written on. It contains no peace and no security.”
Negotiations, said Yaalon, have not been between the Israelis and Palestinians, but rather between Israel and the U.S. “So far, we are the only side to have given anything — the release of murderers — and the Palestinians have given nothing.”
Following Yaalon’s comments, Vice President Joe Biden sent Netanyahu a message from President Obama saying that Obama fully supports Kerry’s diplomatic efforts. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Ya’alon’s statements, if they were recorded accurately, were “offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel’s security needs.”
In a response to the Yediot Ahronot report, Yaalon did not deny making the comments: “When there are disagreements, we work through them inside the room — including with Secretary of State Kerry, with whom I hold many conversations about Israel’s future.”
Netanyahu, attempting to diffuse the situation, called America “our greatest ally” while in parliament on Tuesday, saying, “Even when we have disagreements with the United States, they always pertain to the matter at hand, and are not personal.”
UPDATE: Ya’alon’s office issued an apology to Secretary of State Kerry on Tuesday evening. “Israel and the United states share a common goal to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary Kerry,” the statement said. “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.”