Kerry blasts Israelis over boycott row

Secretary of State John Kerry slammed Israeli officials on Sunday after they accused him of supporting a boycott against the country.

“Secretary Kerry has always expected opposition and difficult moments in the process,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, “but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements.”

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Kerry told a security conference in Munich on Saturday that Israel risked international ostracism if it does not seize on his efforts to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians. The remarks were immediately denounced by the conservative faction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition, which has wobbled as Israel weighs the hard choices needed for a two-state solution.

“Secretary Kerry has a proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel's security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts,” Psaki said. “Just last year, while briefing Foreign Ministers at an EU conference in Vilnius on his peacemaking efforts, he urged them to refrain from implementing these types of measures.

“At the Munich Security Conference yesterday, he spoke forcefully in defense of Israel's interests, as he consistently has throughout his public life. In response to a question about the peace process, he also described some well-known and previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides if this process fails, including the consequences for the Palestinians. His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed.”

Several Israeli ministers didn't see it that way.

“We expect our friends in the world to stand by our side against anti-Semitic boycott efforts against Israel, and not be their trumpet,” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said in a Facebook post, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“The only fantasies are the slogans of peace Kerry is trying to sell to Israel,” added Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel. “These slogans are trying to cover up an existential threat on the State of Israel. The Palestinians do not believe their luck at receiving such a ‘fair’ mediator.”

And Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said “friends don’t make ultimatums about the security of the State of Israel.”

The row comes as Israel is weighing security arrangements that would accompany a two-state solution, notably the eventual withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Jordan Valley. The talks have led to increasingly bitter recriminations against Kerry, with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon last month calling him “obsessed” and “messianic.”

The talks have also threatened to destroy Netanyahu's coalition. 

Last week, Bennett lashed out at Netanyahu for suggesting that Israeli settlers could end up living under Palestinian control, declaring in a speech that “our forefathers and the descendants of our descendants will not forgive an Israeli leader who gives up our land and divides our capital.” Netanyahu threatened to fire him until he delivered an apology of sorts, in which he said insulting the prime minister was not his intention.

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