Israeli defense minister apologizes for anti-Kerry rant

Moshe Yaalon said Secretary of State Kerry was obsessed, messianic and angling for a Nobel Peace Prize

Published January 15, 2014 5:45PM (EST)

John Kerry                   (AP/Susan Walsh)
John Kerry (AP/Susan Walsh)

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon's office apologized on Tuesday for Yaalon's earlier comments deriding Secretary of State John Kerry's attempts to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The defense minister did not intend to insult the secretary and he apologizes if the secretary was hurt by the remarks attributed to the defense minister," said the statement, which was released after an earlier, more halting apology was deemed insufficient by representatives of the United States.

The Yaalon comments that caused the diplomatic quarrel were reported in the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth. The paper quoted Yaalon saying that Kerry's proposed peace deal was "not worth the paper it's written on" and that Kerry "turned up [in Israel] determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor."

Yaalon went on to say that Kerry "cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians" and that the best way for the former U.S. senator to help the Israelis would be "to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace."

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While reaffirming his commitment to working closely with Kerry on Tuesday, Ya'alon did not deny making the remarks. Circles close to him said that Shimon Shiffer, the Yediot Aharnot journalist who quoted the defense minister, had broken the rules of a background briefing.

The defense minister later continued his attack in an address to high school students in Ofakim: "They say time is working against us. We should not be alarmed by all kinds of fear mongering," he said. "We shouldn't get confused, get stressed or give up."

Netanyahu on Tuesday distanced himself from Ya'alon's remarks, but stopped short of condemning them.

"The U.S. is our largest partner and the partnership is founded on shared values and interests," Netanyahu said. "Even when there are disagreements between us, they are always substantive and not personal. We work in full cooperation with Vice-President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry to advanced peace and security in the region. We stand firm regarding our own interests, while promoting the important connection between our two countries."


By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Benjamin Netanyahu Haaretz Israel Israel-palestine John Kerry Moshe Yaalon Palestine Yedioth Aharonoth