News / Middle East

Israeli Minister Apologizes to Kerry Over Scorn for Peace Drive

FILE -Moshe Yaalon attends a Likud-Beiteinu party meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, March 14, 2013.FILE -Moshe Yaalon attends a Likud-Beiteinu party meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, March 14, 2013.
x
FILE -Moshe Yaalon attends a Likud-Beiteinu party meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, March 14, 2013.
FILE -Moshe Yaalon attends a Likud-Beiteinu party meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, March 14, 2013.
Reuters
Israel's hawkish defense minister apologized to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday after a newspaper quoted him scorning the diplomat's quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace as messianic and obsessive.
 
Moshe Yaalon did not deny making the closed-door remarks published on the front page of the best-selling Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, which drew rare condemnation from Washington and added to acrimony over Jewish settlement of occupied West Bank land where the Palestinians seek statehood.
 
Yaalon was initially silent about the report but he moved to calm the furor after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implicitly rebuked him in a speech. He issued a statement of guarded appreciation for the United States and followed it hours later with another explicitly praising Kerry.
 
“Israel and the United States share a common goal to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary Kerry,” it said, in Hebrew and English.
 
“The defense minister had no intention to cause any offense to the secretary, and he apologizes if the secretary was offended by the remarks attributed to the minister.”
 
Kerry has been on a diplomatic blitz in recent weeks to persuade Israel and the Palestinians, who resumed statehood talks in July after a three-year deadlock, to agree on an outline proposal addressing the core issues of their conflict.

There has been scant sign of progress, however.
 
Israel balks at removing settlements - viewed as illegal by most world powers - and has questioned the credibility of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose authority has been limited to the West Bank since he lost control of Gaza in a 2007 civil war to Hamas Islamists, who spurn the Jewish state.
 
“Secretary of State John Kerry - who has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling - cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict with the Palestinians,” Yedioth quoted Yaalon as saying, without specifying when or where he had spoken.
 
“The only thing that can save us is if Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone,” Yaalon reportedly said.
 
Censuring Yaalon, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier on Tuesday that, if accurate, his remarks were “offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel's security needs.”
 
White House spokesman Jay Carney had similar condemnation.
 
‘Great ally’
 
Kerry, who made his 10th visit to Jerusalem last week in less than a year, has been pushing both sides to agree to at least a preliminary deal. Israeli misgivings at the peace talks compound anger within the Netanyahu government at an interim deal that the United States - represented by Kerry - and five other world powers reached with Iran in November to rein in its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
 
Netanyahu spoke by phone to a senior U.S. official in a bid to smooth over the controversy over the Yaalon report, an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity. He said Yaalon also discussed the matter with U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro.
 
Addressing parliament, Netanyahu appeared to take Yaalon, a member of his right-wing Likud party, to task, extolling Israel's shared interests with “our great ally” in Washington.
 
“Even when we have disagreements with the United States, they always pertain to the matter at hand, and are not personal,” Netanyahu said in his speech.
 
Yaalon has been a strong supporter of settlement building. As Israel's military chief, he was replaced in that post before its 2005 Gaza pullout, a move he opposed.
 
One of the sticking points in peacemaking has been Israel's demand to keep a military presence under any future peace deal in the Jordan Valley, between Jordan and the West Bank.
 
Kerry has presented the sides with ideas for security arrangements in the Jordan Valley. Neither has publicly endorsed them. According to Yedioth, Yaalon said: “The American security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.”
 
The State Department challenged Yaalon on the issue.
 
“Secretary Kerry and his team ... have been working day and night to try to promote a secure peace for Israel because of the secretary's deep concern for Israel's future,” Psaki said. “To question his motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally.”
 
The dispute erupted a day after U.S. media published excerpts from a memoir by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in which he said he had tried to get Netanyahu barred from the White House, accusing him of being arrogant and ungrateful.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs