The Anti-Defamation League criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments at the Munich Security Conference last weekend to the effect that Israel could face increasing international isolation if the peace process with the Palestinians fails, saying that the secretary’s statements could themselves greatly harm the peace process.
Kerry said that Israel faced an “increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things.” He warned: “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.”
In an open letter to the secretary of state on Monday, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said that while Kerry had certainly not intended to do so, “as the key player in the process, the impact of your comments was to create a reality of its own.”
“Describing the potential for expanded boycotts of Israel,” Foxman wrote, “makes it more, not less, likely that the talks will not succeed; makes it more, not less, likely that Israel will be blamed if the talks fail; and more, not less, likely that boycotts will ensue.”
Foxman asserted that comments such as Kerry’s would encourage Palestinians to derail the talks and legitimize boycotts of Israel as the party responsible.
The ADL chief added that while Israel must of course make compromises in order to reach a peace accord, “it is Palestinians who must hear the message that not only has their rejectionism been the major obstacle to peace, but it has also been the main source of their suffering and misery over the years.”
According to Foxman marking Israel as a target for boycotts would only play into Palestinians’ inclination to find new reasons to reject Israel. “Concerns of the kind you expressed therefore would have been better left unsaid or at most discussed in private conversations with Israeli representatives,” he said.
Kerry’s remarks over the weekend drew fierce criticism from right-wing cabinet members including Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who called the comments “offensive and intolerable,” and Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, who accused Kerry of serving as a “mouthpiece” for anti-Semitic elements.
Kerry’s comments were rejected by Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, who said “immoral and unjustified” boycotts would only “push peace farther away.”
The criticism led the State Department to issue a clarification Sunday that the secretary was not supporting a boycott of Israel but simply warning of actions undertaken by others, which he has always opposed.
Gavriel Fiske and Yoel Goldman contributed to this report.