US slams reported Israeli criticism of Kerry plan as 'offensive'

ROME (AFP) - The US State Department on Tuesday condemned as "offensive and inappropriate" reported comments by Israel's defence minister criticising a security plan put forward by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"The remarks of the defence minister if accurate are offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel's security needs," spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters following a visit by Kerry to the Vatican.

The Yediot Aharonot newspaper in Israel on Tuesday reported Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon saying in private conversations with Israeli officials that Kerry's plan was "not worth the paper it was written on".

The minister also accused Washington's top diplomat of having an "incomprehensible obsession" about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, accusing Kerry of being naive and implying he is a nuisance.

"It provides neither security nor peace," he reportedly said, adding: "The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us be." But Psaki said 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.

"To question his motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defence minister of a close ally," she said.

Kerry coaxed Israelis and Palestinians back into direct negotiations last summer and has visited the region 10 times since taking over as secretary of state in February 2013.

His proposals include a security plan for the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan, which would involve advanced hitech equipment and early warning stations that could allow Israel to reduce or replace its military presence in the area, Israeli media say.

Israel has always said that it would have to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley in any final agreement, an idea completely rejected by the Palestinians.