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Kerry Shrugs Off Ya'alon Comments, Says Talks to Continue

US Sec. of State tells journalists he is unperturbed by remarks made by Israeli Defense Minister calling him 'obsessive' and 'messianic'.
By Arutz Sheva Staff and AFP
First Publish: 1/15/2014, 3:34 PM

John Kerry
John Kerry
Israel news photo: Flash 90

US State Secretary John Kerry on Wednesday downplayed the impact of comments by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon against him, saying he will not allow the criticism to affect peace efforts.

A diplomatic row erupted between Israel and Washington on Tuesday after Ya'alon was quoted as saying Kerry had an "obsession" and a "sense of messianism" about the "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

"Prime Minister Binyamin 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.  

Ya'alon apologized on Wednesday to Kerry for his comments, although notable he neither denied saying them nor withdrew them.

"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 Ya'alon said in a statement.  

In private conversations between Israeli and US officials, revealed by Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Ya'alon 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," Ya'alon 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," Ya'alon 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.   

Others, however, voiced their support for the embattled Defense Minister, with one former military leader telling Arutz Sheva the current negotiations were a "theater of the absurd".