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Kerry says ‘one set of comments’ won’t undermine peace process

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, referring to remarks made by Israel’s defense minister, said he will not let “one set of comments” undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort.

Kerry, speaking to reporters Wednesday on the sidelines of the Syria Donors’ Conference in Kuwait City, was responding to a question about remarks attributed the day before to Moshe Yaalon in which he reportedly described Kerry’s pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace as “messianic and obsessive.”

Kerry said he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 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.”

Yaalon, referring to an as-yet unpublished proposal drafted by U.S. Gen. John Allen that Kerry believes would facilitate Israel’s withdrawal from much of the West Bank, reportedly said, “The security program the Americans presented us with isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

“It has no peace and no security,” the Israeli defense chief said. “Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and on the Jordan River will ensure that Ben Gurion Airport and Netanya will not become targets for missiles from every which way. Secretary of State John Kerry, who came to us determined and acting out of some incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling, can’t teach me a thing about the conflict with the Palestinians.

Yaalon, who apologized on Tuesday night, was roundly criticized by the U.S. State Department and Israeli officials for the remarks, which were first reported in the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot.

Kerry told reporters in Kuwait City that throughout the conference, “everybody I talk to expressed gratitude for the efforts the United States is making for President Obama’s commitment to try to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” a process that he called “hard” and full of “difficult choices.”

“I will work with the willing participants who are committed to peace and committed to this process,” he said. “And after five months of negotiations, I believe strongly in the prospects for peace, and I know that the status quo is not sustainable. So we will continue to work, and I will work undeterred.”

Yaalon’s apology was sent to the media from Israel’s Defense Ministry.

“Israel and the United States share a common goal to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary Kerry. We appreciate Secretary Kerry’s many efforts towards that end,” the statement said. “The defense minister had no intention to cause any offense to the secretary, and he apologizes if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister.”

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