The U.S. State Department has blasted recent comments by Israel’s defense minister, Moshe “Boogy” Ya’alon, about Secretary of State John Kerry as “offensive.” Ya’alon had accused Kerry of “misplaced obsession and messianic fervor” in his efforts to push for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinian leaders have been reluctant to move forward, while Israel is worried about Kerry’s proposed concessions on security.
The State Department, through spokesperson Jen Psaki, said: “The remarks of the defense minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel’s security needs.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres were at pains to stress the importance of American support, without apologizing outright for Ya’alon’s controversial remarks.
Ya’alon is known to be skeptical of Kerry’s security proposals, which include Israel giving up settlements and military patrols in the Jordan River valley, which is the border between Jordan and the West Bank, currently held by Israel. In the past, Ya’alon has stressed that the Israeli military must have complete command of the border in order to deter and repel any incursions from Iran or other hostile forces and proxies in the region.
Kerry has made ten trips to Israel and the Palestinian Authority since being confirmed as Secretary of State less than a year ago. The pursuit of a peace agreement remains the most visible foreign policy priority of the Obama administration, despite the looming challenge of a nuclear Iran, the Syrian civil war, and other issues. The quest for an agreement frustrated the second terms of both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
UPDATE: The left-wing Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports that the U.S. is demanding that Netanyahu formally condemn Ya’alon’s statement. Ya’alon has responded by hinting that his comments were not intended to be public: “The relationship between Israel and the U.S. is intimate and of great significance to us. The U.S. is our greatest friend and most important ally, and when divisions emerge we work them out behind closed doors.”