The office of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Tuesday would neither confirm nor deny comments attributed to him calling US Secretary of State John Kerry “obsessive” and “messianic.”
Tuesday editions of the daily tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth quote Ya’alon as telling associates in private conversations that Kerry “should take his Nobel Prize and leave us alone.”
“Abu Mazen lives and dies by our sword,” Ya’alon is quoted as saying by Yedioth. “Once we leave Judea and Samaria, he is finished. In effect, during these past months, there haven’t been negotiations with the Palestinians, but with the Americans.”
“The only thing that can ‘save’ us is for John Kerry to win his Nobel Prize and leave us alone,” the defense minister reportedly said.
Source in Defense Ministry told Israel Radio: "All along [Ya'alon] has expressed deep concerns that the diplomatic process could lead to missiles on Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport. He doesn't intend to compromise on Israeli security even is he is called a hard nut to crack.
The remarks elicited angry reactions from both within the government and the opposition.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who leads Israel's negotiating team, wrote on Facebook: "You can oppose negotiations professionally and responsibly without tongue-lashing and destroying relations with Israel's top ally."
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua) called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to fire Ya’alon and ministers who agree with him. Opposition leader and Labor chief Isaac Herzog said that Hatnua and Yesh Atid should leave the coalition over Ya’alon’s statements and instead form a large center-left bloc that would work to topple the government.
“I think Ya’alon is revealing the true face of Netanyahu’s government,” Herzog told Army Radio. “Now Netanyahu has to choose between the outlook of Ya’alon and that of Livni. Livni should stop her fruitless negotiations and she and Lapid should check with Netanyahu whether he is really seeking a deal at all.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said of Ya'alon's purported statements, "I agree with content. But with all our disagreements we need to follow one rule: We must refrain from personal insults."
Labor Party MK Omer Bar-Lev assailed Ya’alon for the comments.
“Publicly clashing with the Americans is irresponsible and damaging to Israel’s security, international standing, and its relations with the United States,” said Bar-Lev, a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“Ya’alon’s statements are testament to a narrow, military view of the needs of the State of Israel and painting them in shades of black and white,” Bar-Lev said.
“This is a perspective that ignores national issues that have decisive importance to Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish and democratic state, its international standing, and the alternative to failing to reach an agreement that will end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as well as the Arab world, which could be more dangerous than preserving the status quo that Ya’alon is holding onto.”
Following the reports, Ya'alon's Bureau released a statement which contained a pledge to smooth over divisions with Washington, but not a denial of the reported remarks.
Relations between the US and Israel are "intimate and are of high significance for us. The US is our greatest friend and most important ally, and when there are divisions we smooth them over inside the room [behind closed doors], including with Secretary of State Kerry, with whom I hold many talks about the future of Israel," the statement said.
Ya'alon vowed to continue to safeguard the security of Israeli citizens with "determination, responsibility, and sound judgment."