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Kerry downplays Israeli minister’s comments

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A diplomatic row erupted between Israel and Washington on Tuesday after Yaalon was quoted as saying Kerry had an “obsession” and a “sense of messianism” about the peace process.

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference on the sidelines of the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, on January 15, 2014. The Conference for Syria aims to raise $6.5 billion for more than 13.4 million Syrians facing extreme conditions inside the country and in neighbouring nations.  (AFP PHOTO / PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS / POOL)

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference on the sidelines of the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, on January 15, 2014.
(AFP PHOTO / PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS / POOL)

AFP – US State Secretary John Kerry on Wednesday downplayed the impact of offensive comments by Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon against him, saying he will not allow the slur to affect peace efforts.

A diplomatic row erupted between Israel and Washington on Tuesday after Yaalon was quoted as saying Kerry had an “obsession” and a “sense of messianism” about the peace process.

“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and I talk regularly and we are both very committed to moving the process forward, and we just can’t let one set of comments undermine that effort and I don’t intend to,” Kerry said.

“Everywhere I go, even here today, everybody I talk to expresses gratitude to the efforts the United States is making, for President [Barack] Obama’s commitment to try to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” he told reporters in Kuwait, where he was attending a donor conference aimed at raising funds for Syrians.

“There are hard choices to be made. We are going to work with both sides,” he said.

“I am going to work with the willing participants who are committed to peace and committed to this process, and after five months of negotiations, I believe strongly in the prospect for peace and I know that the status quo is not sustainable,” he added.

Yaalon apologised on Wednesday to Kerry for his comments.

“Israel and the United States share a common goal to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary Kerry,” a contrite Yaalon said in a statement.

In private conversations between Israeli and US 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 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 minister’s remarks provoked a welter of criticism inside Israel, with several cabinet ministers and the opposition saying his personal attack on Kerry was inappropriate.

Kerry coaxed Israelis and Palestinians back into direct negotiations last summer and has since shuttled tirelessly between the two leaderships in a bid to keep talks alive.


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