The US State Department Sunday condemned as "deeply offensive" remarks by an influential Israeli rabbi who said he hoped Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
would "perish from our world."
"We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.
"These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace."
Ovadia, who heads the Shas religious
party in Israel's ruling coalition, expressed hope in his weekly sermon Saturday that "all the evil people who hate Israel,
like Abu Mazen (Abbas), perish from our world."
"May God strike them down with the plague along with all the evil Palestinians who persecute Israel," he said.
Crowley said the remarks did not reflect the view of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
who is due in Washington this week for direct peace talks with Abbas.
The talks will be the first face-to-face discussions since December 2008, when the Palestinians broke off negotiations over a deadly Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip.