Washington, 9 Muharram 1436/2 November 2014 (MINA) – US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep the “status quo” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem.
In a phone call with Netanyahu on Friday, Kerry called for keeping the status quo at the holy site and avoiding taking provocative measures, according to Israel Radio, according to Middle East Monitor (MEMO) reports quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA), Sunday.
The top American diplomat also apologised for Netanyahu for the quotes attributed to anonymous White House officials in a report by The Atlantic referring to the Israeli premier as “chickenshit”.
“Such statements are disgraceful, unacceptable and damaging,” Kerry said in a press conference.
Israel closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Thursday, shortly after the shooting of an extremist Jewish rabbi in Jerusalem.
Israeli authorities reopened Al-Aqsa on Friday following a day of violent clashes with Palestinian protesters, but barred male worshippers under 50 years old from entering the religious site.
On Friday, Kerry telephoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss developments in the Palestinian territories.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognised by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada,” a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
Kerry apologizes Netanyahu for ‘chickenshit’ remark
Meanwhile Press TV reported that John Kerry has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize for offensive remarks made by an unnamed American official.
The top US diplomat on Friday talked with Netanyahu over the issue, according to the Israeli media.
On Tuesday, a senior Obama administration official described Netanyahu as a “chickenshit,” expressing the US president’s frustration with the Israeli leader.
“The thing about Bibi [Netanyahu] is, he’s a chickenshit,” the official told US magazine the Atlantic when asked about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate Barack Obama the most.
The apology came one day after Kerry condemned the remarks by the anonymous White House official.
“We condemn anybody who uses language such as was used in this article,” Kerry said during an appearance at the Atlantic’s Ideas Forum on Thursday. “It is disgraceful, unacceptable, damaging.”
“I have never heard that word around me in the White House. I don’t know who these anonymous people are who keep getting quoted, but they make life much more difficult,” Kerry said.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed the comments.
“Those comments do not reflect the United States’ position, and they do not reflect the personal views of the president of the United States,” Earnest said.
Relations between the Obama administration and Tel Aviv have been strained over a number of issues.
Earlier this month, the United States criticized Israel’s plan to build more than 1,000 settler units in the occupied Palestinian lands.
Meanwhile, top American officials refused to meet with Israeli Military Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon during his visit to the United States last week.
The refusal was an angry response by Washington after Ya’alon mocked Kerry’s efforts to forge a peace deal between Tel Aviv and the Palestinians.
The Israeli minister had called Kerry’s efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace “messianic and obsessive.” (T/P3/P2)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)