Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon clarified on Tuesday evening that he had no intention of offending U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Israel and the United states share a common goal to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary Kerry,” said a statement by Yaalon’s office.
“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,” added the statement.
Earlier, the White House had harsh words over Yaalon's remarks about Kerry and his efforts to secure peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"The remarks of the Israeli defense minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially in light of everything that the United States is doing to support Israel's security needs," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, according to a report by the AFP news agency.
"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," he added.
"To question Secretary Kerry's motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally," declared Carney.
On Tuesday, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper quoted Yaalon, in closed conversations, as dismissing the U.S. peace plan and calling Kerry “messianic” and “obsessive.”
Yaalon reportedly said in these conversations, which took place ahead of Kerry's latest visit, that “the American security plan that was presented to us is not worth the paper it was written on. It contains neither security nor peace. Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan River will guarantee that Ben Gurion Airport and (the northern city of) Netanya do not become targets for missiles from every direction.
“Secretary of State John Kerry – who came here very determined, and operates based upon an unfathomable obsession and a messianic feeling – cannot teach me anything about the Palestinians,” he was quoted as saying.
“The only thing that can 'save' us is that John Kerry will get a Nobel peace prize and leave us alone,” Yaalon reportedly said.
The State Department reacted angrily to the comments, with spokeswoman Jen Psaki saying that they were “offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel's security needs.”
"To question his motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally," she said.
A senior American official urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to publicly disavow Yaalon’s comments.
"We expect the prime minister to put this right by expressing publicly his disagreement with the statements against Secretary Kerry, the negotiations with the Palestinians and Kerry's commitment to Israel's security," a senior State Department official told AFP.
Speaking earlier in the Knesset, Netanyahu had chided Yaalon for the personal nature of his criticism of Kerry, although he did not take issue with his comments about U.S. policy.
"Even when we have disagreements with the United States, it is about the matter at hand and not about the person," Netanyahu said.