(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
The U.S. has responded to stinging comments made by Israel's defense minister, who recently described Secretary of State John Kerry's approach to the Middle East peace initiative as "messianic" and said he hopes Kerry will ultimately leave the Middle Eastern country alone.
"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," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement released Tuesday.
Israel's defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, reportedly told the Yediot Aharonot , the biggest selling newspaper in the country, on Tuesday, "Secretary of State John Kerry came here very determined and operates based upon an unfathomable obsession and a messianic feeling."
"Throughout the recent months, there is no negotiation between us and the Palestinians, but rather, between us and the Americans. The only thing that can 'save' us is that John Kerry will get a Nobel Peace Prize and leave us alone."
Following Yaalon's comments, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to extol the importance of shared interests between Israel and the U.S., which he described as "our great ally."
"Even when we have disagreements with the United States, they always pertain to the matter at hand, and are not personal," Netanyahu told parliament on Tuesday, as reported by Reuters. The country's defense minister also reportedly sought to clarify his comments, telling Haaretz that he believes the U.S. is Israel's "greatest friend."
Relations between the U.S. and Israel are "intimate and very significant for us. The U.S. is our greatest friend and our most important ally; I will keep safeguarding the security of the citizens of Israel resolutely, responsibly and with discretion," Yaalon clarified on Tuesday afternoon.
Over the past few weeks, Kerry has been pushing Israel and Palestine to agree on a peace proposal outline that would address many of the conflicts between the two regions, including security and refugee issues. The main agreement involves a "two-state solution" where Israel would exist peacefully next to a Palestinian state.
Yaalon's comments come days before Kerry arrives in Israel to continue talks over the interim agreement. The secretary of state is hoping to have Israel and Palestine agree on a framework for the conflict resolution before April, when plans for another year of peace talks will be made.