US secretary of state John Kerry spoke about boycotts of Israel during an international security conference in Munich. His comments have led to a public spat with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu .
JERUSALEM: The US hit back at Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday after the Israeli prime minister warned that calls for boycotts of Israel to pressure it over settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are “immoral and unjustified” and would not achieve their goal.
In a public spat that reflected tensions over slow-moving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the state department rebuked Netanyahu for apparently misrepresenting the words of the US secretary of state, John Kerry. Another senior right-wing minister accused Kerry of serving as a “mouthpiece” for anti-semitic views.
Speaking on the record at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, the Israeli prime minister said that the growing international boycott movement would only “push peace further away” by encouraging Palestinian intransigence.
“No pressure will force me to give up the vital interests of the state of Israel, above all the security of the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu stated.
The remarks followed Kerry’s warning on Saturday that failure to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians would damage Israel’s capacity to be a democratic state and could lead to more boycotts.
“The risks are very high for Israel,” he said at an international security conference in Munich. “People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure. We all have a strong interest in this conflict resolution. Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace.”
The US statement department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, noted that Kerry had been referring to the actions of others and resolutely opposed boycotts. “Secretary Kerry has always expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements,” she added pointedly.
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator, said Kerry was merely “expressing concern” for Israel’s future.
Netanyahu’s coalition government has registered alarm at growing talk of boycotts. In the past week, a Danish bank announced it would sever ties with Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, over the financing of settlements built across the old 1967 border in breach of international law.