Secretary of State John Kerry pauses during a press conference at the end of the Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva, Nov. 10, 2013.
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - The Israeli government apologized on Tuesday after the White House took offense to a news report in which the country's defense minister was quoted describing Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to win an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as driven by "misplaced obsession and messianic fervor."
"The defense minister did not intend to insult the secretary and he apologizes if the secretary was hurt by the remarks attributed to the defense minister," according to a statement issued by Yaalon's office.
The comments by Israel's Moshe Yaalon, published in Israel's Yediot Ahronoth, were also roundly criticized by Israel's chief negotiator in the peace talks, Tzipi Livni, who said the defense minister's comments were damaging to bilateral relations, and set off a spat with the Obama administration.
Israel's Haaretz reports that the apology came after a two-hour meeting between Yaalon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.
"The remarks of the Israeli defense minister if accurate are offensive and inappropriate especially in light of everything that the United States is doing to support Israeli's security needs," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters before the apology was issued. "To question Secretary Kerry's motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally."
Yaalon dismissed the American security plan for the region as "not worth the paper it's written on."
"Secretary of State John Kerry - who has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling - cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict with the Palestinians," Yaalon was quoted as saying. "The only thing that can save us is if Kerry wins the Nobel prize and leaves us alone."
The report was published not long after Vice President Biden departed from Israel, where he had traveled this week to attend the funeral of former leader Ariel Sharon and held talks with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, who has butted heads with President Obama in the past, also criticized Yaalon's reported comments.
"Even when we have disagreements with the United States, they always pertain to the matter at hand, and are not personal," Netanyahu said in parliament.