Comments spark spat between US and Israel


JERUSALEM — An Israeli newspaper quoted the defense minister Tuesday as deriding U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s Mideast peace efforts as naive and foolhardy, triggering an angry response from Washington and rekindling simmering tensions with Israel’s closest and most important ally.

The quotes appeared ahead of another visit by Kerry, who is expected in the region in the coming weeks to deliver his ideas on a framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Kerry already submitted to Israel a series of proposals for ensuring Israel’s security as part of a future peace deal.

In the comments published by the Yediot Ahronot daily, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon called Kerry “obsessive” and “messianic” and dismissed Kerry’s security plan as worthless.

“The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be,” Yaalon was quoted as saying.

Yaalon is a former military chief of staff and close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Since becoming defense minister last year, he has been a vocal skeptic of Kerry’s peace efforts. In his public statements, he has said Israel has “no partner” for peace and questioned the Palestinian commitment to resolving years of conflict.

Asked about the report, Yaalon issued a statement saying relations with the U.S. are “intimate and meaningful” for Israel.

“The United States is our greatest friend and our strongest ally and when there are differences they are resolved behind closed doors, including with Secretary Kerry with whom I have many conversations about the future of Israel. I will continue to determinedly, responsibly and thoughtfully protect the security of the people of Israel,” Yaalon said.

 

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