Despite Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s disparaging comments about US Secretary of State John Kerry and the diplomatic process he is leading, Israeli and US officials are continuing to meet on the document Kerry is expected to present in the coming weeks that is to form the basis for continued Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
Kerry said on Wednesday he was “undeterred” by Ya’alon’s comments, even though he indicated that the defense minister might be boxed out of future consultations.
“We’re going to work with both sides,” Kerry said in Kuwait City where he was taking part in a Syria Donors’ Conference. “I will work with the willing participants who are committed to peace and committed to this process.”
Ya’alon, in comments quoted in Yediot Aharonot on Tuesday, made clear that he was highly skeptical of the process.
Up until now Ya’alon was a key participant in many of Kerry’s meetings in Jerusalem.
Yediot Aharonot quoted Ya’alon as saying in private meetings that Kerry’s diplomatic efforts stemmed from an “incomprehensible obsession” and “a messianic feeling.”
Ya’alon said that Kerry should “take his Nobel Prize and leave us alone,” according to the report.
The secretary of state avoided mentioning Ya’alon by name in the press conference on Wednesday. When asked if the defense minister’s comments did not signal serious disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, he said that he and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “talk regularly, and we are both very committed to moving the process forward. And we just can’t let one set of comments undermine that effort, and I don’t intend to.”
Kerry said that everywhere he travels he hears gratitude “for the efforts the United States is making, for President Obama’s commitment to try to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis. And we all know the very, very difficult choice in trying to deal with that. The process is hard. And we’ve always known that, as we approach the time for these difficult choices, it’s going to be difficult. I mean there are hard choices to be made.”
Ya’alon issued an apology to Kerry late Tuesday night saying he did not intend to cause offense, and apologized if he did so. The apology came after a lengthy meeting Netanyahu held with Ya’alon earlier in the day over the matter.
Kerry has not yet announced when he will return to the region for yet another round of shuttle diplomacy, and is believed to be waiting for responses from Netanyhau and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on key issues in the US document of principles; specifically concerning security arrangements in the Jordan Valley after the establishment of a Palestinian state, and Palestinian recognition of Israel as that nation state of the Jewish people.