Kerry says undeterred by Israeli criticism of peace push

KUWAIT Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:43am EST

1 of 3. A Palestinian man shouts slogans as others wave flags during a protest against U.S Secretary of State John Kerry's proposed framework agreement, addressing core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 15, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

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KUWAIT (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday he would not let criticism of his Middle East peace efforts attributed to Israel's defense minister deter him from trying to achieve a framework Israeli-Palestinian deal.

"We just can't let one set of comments undermine that effort, and I don't intend to," Kerry told a news conference in Kuwait, where he was attending a donors' conference for Syria.

Israel's hawkish defense chief, Moshe Yaalon, was quoted by an Israeli newspaper on Tuesday as calling Kerry's efforts "messianic," and dismissing a U.S.-proposed security plan for the occupied West Bank.

That drew a sharp rebuke from the White House and State Department. Yaalon later said in a statement that he "apologizes if the secretary was offended" by the reported remarks, stopping short of denying that he made them.

"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," Israel's biggest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, had quoted Yaalon as saying.

"The only thing that can save us is if Kerry wins the Nobel prize and leaves us alone," he said, according to the report.

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.

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, which forms the boundary between the West Bank and Jordan.

Kerry has presented the sides with ideas for security arrangements in the Jordan Valley. Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian side has publicly endorsed the proposals, and 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 and said that questioning Kerry's motives was "not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally".

Yaalon was initially silent about the Yedioth report, which apparently stemmed from an off-the-record briefing he gave Israeli reporters. But he acted to calm the furor with Washington after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implicitly rebuked him in a speech.

An Israeli official said on Tuesday that Netanyahu had spoken by phone to a senior U.S. official in a bid to smooth over the controversy.

Yaalon is a member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, and has been a strong supporter of Jewish settlement-building on occupied land that Palestinians seek for a state.

As Israel's military chief, he was replaced in that post before its 2005 pullout of soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip, a move he opposed.

(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (5)
101pilot wrote:
Kerry’s ineptitude and double standards are legendary. Dumped one rich wife for a richer one. Cheated on his taxes hiding his boat in another state. Cheated on his military record – caught by the Swift Boat real heroes. Another example of a self-aggrandizing egotist screwing up our national security. Only boob that rivals him in foreign affairs is the non-elected, non-appointed twit Jesse Jackson. Sorry, Dennis Rodman does one better. Although his predecessor, Hillary proved she could kill Americans through her incompetence. Of course, “What does it matter”.

Jan 15, 2014 8:00am EST  --  Report as abuse
frankkarlburn wrote:
Unfortunately there is a zionist contingent in the Israeli government that seeks territory expansion. They criticize any earnest attempt at what they really do not want. Kudos to Kerry for his earnestness, as there are many Israelis who do want peace, not more land.

Jan 15, 2014 8:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
chasbro777 wrote:
Mr Kerry could facilitate a date between Hitler and Golda Meir before any true peace will occur. Two worldviews equally opposed can only achieve a standoff…..for awhile. You can only take so much rhetoric until,sadly, the bombs begin to fall again. 9/11/ is a stark reminder that it only takes a small “percentage” of a religion that rewrites and imposes its version of “history.” While most of Islam is “peaceful” 9 (sic) they have absolutely no influence over the real issue re Jerusalem and the Palestinians. What makes Kerry think the USA is any different?

Jan 15, 2014 9:56am EST  --  Report as abuse
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