US Secretary of State John Kerry hit out Thursday at reported insults by an American official leveled against the Israeli prime minister, saying it was "disgraceful, unacceptable and damaging."
The top US diplomat also pledged the United States would continue to work "quietly and effectively" to try to relaunch the peace process with the Palestinians in a thoughtful and even-handed way, saying it was "doable."
Turbulent US-Israel ties plunged to new lows this week, when an anonymous senior Obama administration official was quoted in The Atlantic magazine as calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a chickenshit" only interested in preserving his own political skin.
Kerry told a forum hosted by The Atlantic that the comments did not reflect the views of either President Barack Obama or his cabinet.
A bid by Kerry to hammer out an elusive peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians collapsed earlier this year amid bitter recriminations on both sides.
"We still believe it is doable, but it takes courage and it takes strength," Kerry insisted.
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"Both sides have to be prepared to compromise in order to do it."
And he argued that Israel's changing demographics, with a burgeoning population of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, meant the country had little choice but to seek a two-state solution.
Israel "wants to be a Jewish state. To be a Jewish state, you clearly have to resolve the issue of two states," Kerry said.
"If you don't, and you are a unitary state and people have equal rights to vote and participate as citizens, is Israel going to have a Palestinian prime minister? I don't think so. I don't think so. Not going to happen."
But he rejected the suggestion that either he or Obama should lay out what a peace deal could look like -- even though there are believed to be piles of documents from his intensive peace effort earlier this year.
"We need to work quietly and effectively and we condemn anybody who uses language such as was used in this article," Kerry said.