Israel minister apologizes for scorn Kerry
Updated: 2014-01-15 09:59
Kerry, who made his 10th visit to Jerusalem last week in less than a year, has been pushing both sides to agree to at least a preliminary deal. Israeli misgivings at the Palestine talks compound anger within the Netanyahu government at an interim deal that the United States - represented by Kerry - and five other world powers reached with Iran in November to rein in its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.
Netanyahu spoke by phone to a senior US official in a bid to smooth over the controversy over the Yaalon report, an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity. He said Yaalon also discussed the matter with U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro.
Addressing parliament, Netanyahu appeared to take Yaalon, a member of his right-wing Likud party, to task, extolling Israel's shared interests with "our great ally" in Washington.
"Even when we have disagreements with the United States, they always pertain to the matter at hand, and are not personal," Netanyahu said in his speech.
Yaalon has been a strong supporter of settlement building. As Israel's military chief, he was replaced in that post before its 2005 Gaza pullout, a move he opposed.
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, between Jordan and the West Bank.
Kerry has presented the sides with ideas for security arrangements in the Jordan Valley. Neither has publicly endorsed them. 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.
"Secretary Kerry and his team ... have been working day and night to try to promote a secure peace for Israel because of the secretary's deep concern for Israel's future," Psaki said.
"To question his motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defence minister of a close ally."
The dispute erupted a day after US media published excerpts from a memoir by former Defence Secretary Robert Gates in which he said he had tried to get Netanyahu barred from the White House, accusing him of being arrogant and ungrateful.