"We can't let one set of comments undermine peace efforts, and I don't intend to... I will work undeterred," Kerry was quoted as saying during a press conference in Kuwait, where he held talks on the ongoing Syrian crisis.
As reported exclusively by Yediot Aharonot, Ya'alon lashed out at Kerry and his efforts to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, slamming proposed American security arrangement plan as "not worth the paper it's written on", and dismissing Kerry himself as "messianic" and obsessive." Kerry, he said in conversations behind closed doors, should just claim his Nobel Prize and leave Israel alone.
"We all know there are very, very difficult choices we're trying to deal with, that the process is hard," Kerry said in response to Ya'alon's comments, Bloomberg's Nicole Gaouette reported.
"We've always known that as we approach the time for these difficult choices, it's going to be difficult.... After 5 months of negotiations, I believe strongly in the prospects for peace and I know the status quo is not sustainable," the US secretary of state said.
Ya'alon apologized Tuesday to Kerry, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a senior US official in a damage control move. Ya'alon also reportedly received an angry phone call from US Ambassador Israel Dan Shapiro.
"We appreciate Secretary Kerry's many efforts towards that end. 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."
Kerry did not directly reference the apology, only saying that he is "focused on trying to move forward," Gaouette reported, adding that it is possible that Kerry was unaware of the apology at the time he made the comments.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with a senior US official in a bid to smooth over a diplomatic controversy sparked by comments attributed to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity.
Earlier on Tuesday, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the defense minister suggested that US Secretary of State John Kerry's quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace was messianic and obsessive.
"The remarks of the Defense Minister (Moshe Ya'alon), if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel's security needs," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a brief statement that constituted a rare rebuke to close ally Israel.
"To question Secretary Kerry's motives and distort his proposals is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that "The United States is our greatest ally," noting: "We are working in cooperation with the US president, the vice president… and the secretary of state. We are making efforts to promote peace, security, and stability in the region.
"We maintain our interest, while cultivating this important tie between the two nations. We strive to reach a true peace accord. We do not want a bi-national state but we also don’t want an Iran-backed state that will try to annihilate the State of Israel."