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Thursday 21 August 2014

Israel ignites US row by dismissing Kerry's 'messianic peace mission'

Raf Sanchez, Washington and Inna Lazareva, Jerusalem

Published 15/01/2014 | 02:30

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Vatican to meet Secretary of State of the Holy See Pietro Parolin for talks on Tuesday on the Middle East
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Vatican to meet Secretary of State of the Holy See Pietro Parolin for talks on Tuesday on the Middle East

Tensions between Israel and America spilled into the open yesterday as the US rejected the Israeli defence minister's claim that John Kerry is on a "messianic" quest for peace in the Middle East.

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Moshe Yaalon, a hawkish Israeli cabinet minister, reportedly dismissed the US secretary of state's frenetic peacemaking efforts as outside meddling motivated by "an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism".

"The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be," Mr Yaalon said.

Mr Kerry has made 10 trips to Israel as secretary of state to try to jump start the stalled peace process and the State Department issued a rare rebuke of its close ally.

"The remarks of the defence minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the US is doing to support Israel's security needs," said Jen Psaki, Mr Kerry's spokesman.

Mr Yaalon's office refused to confirm or deny the comments.

The remarks drew a mixed reaction from his Israeli cabinet colleagues.

The environment minister, Amir Peretz, called for Mr Yaalon to be sacked while the opposition Labour party called for the governing right-wing coalition to be brought down.

Yuval Steinitz, the intelligence minister, criticised Mr Yaalon's outburst but told Israel Army Radio he had to "agree with the content".

FLARE-UP

The flare-up between Mr Yaalon and Mr Kerry is a rare public glimpse of the tensions that underline the relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv.

In a new book, Robert Gates, the former US secretary of defence, claims he was so frustrated with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, that he tried to ban him from the White House while George HW Bush was president.

"I was offended by his glibness and his criticisms of US policy -- not to mention his arrogance and outlandish ambition," Mr Gates writes in 'Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War'.

Mr Kerry is expected to return to the region in the coming weeks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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