Two ministers launched strident verbal attacks Monday against US Secretary of State John Kerry for his warnings over an international boycott should peace talks fail.
Israel will not capitulate to economic threats, said Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, while Communications Minister Gilad Erdan accused Kerry of “fanning the flames” of boycotts against Israel rather than opposing them.
Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, also emphasized the Jewish birthright to the land of Israel and denounced chief negotiator Tzipi Livni’s ostensible concessions to Palestinians on their claims to the land.
Bennett opened his address at the weekly Jewish Home faction meeting decrying the “propaganda barrage” designed to “scare us into handing over our land,” a seeming reference to Kerry’s remarks on Saturday that should the peace talks be unsuccessful, a wave of boycott efforts would likely follow and Israel’s “illusionary” prosperity and security calm would disappear.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Kerry said Israel faces 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.”
“I’m telling everyone: You’ve made a mistake,” Bennett said in response. “You must not know the Jewish nation; the Jewish nation is stronger than these threats. We will not collapse in the face of intimidation.”
“They say everything has a price,” Bennett continued. “Our values don’t have a price. You cannot buy values in dollars. Our land is not a negotiable currency, there is no price tag on our security and our children’s [security], and even a billion dollars will not bring a child who was killed by a Palestinian rocket back to life.”
Israel will win this “war” in the same manner it won all other military attacks against it in the past, Bennett stressed, “quietly, composedly, and with faith.”
“It’s difficult to accept Kerry’s explanation that he was describing the situation as an onlooker,” Erdan said at a convention in Jerusalem. “He appears more as someone trying to fan the flames of threats against Israel’s economy.”
Erdan stated that the Obama administration does not understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the reality of the Middle East. He added that the US was putting unfair pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government without putting equal pressure on the Palestinians.
“One would expect someone who is supposed to be a fair, objective mediator to also tell the Palestinian side what price it will pay if it continues to deny the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, if it stays on the path of intransigence and if its official media outlets and education system continue to incite against the State of Israel,” Erdan said.
Erdan also spoke out against Finance Minister Yair Lapid, accusing him of “terrorizing Israeli citizens” by suggesting failure to secure an agreement with the Palestinians will lead to an economic recession in Israel.
Erdan said Lapid was “terrorizing Israeli citizens by trying to identify the weakest links, such as the high costs of living.”
On Saturday, Bennett had accused Kerry of incitement and of serving as a “mouthpiece” for anti-Semitic elements attempting to boycott Israel.
The Jewish Home party leader also castigated Livni for ostensibly dismissing Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat’s comments that Israel was stolen from the Palestinian people. According to Bennett, Livni, at a panel with Erekat in Munich at the weekend, responded noncommittally and said that rather than focusing on whose narrative is correct, they must look to the future.
“Whoever seeks the root cause of failure in the past decades in the State of Israel — that’s the root cause of failure, because they speak of justice, and we speak of narrative,” Bennett said.
Bennett referred to the boycott threats as a “war of the spirit” that must be combated through repetition of the Jewish claims to the land.
“The land of Israel belonged to Jews thousands of years before the Palestinians even came to the world,” Bennett said.
Erekat had said, in response to Livni’s demand for recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, that this was out of the question. He claimed his origins in the land dated back “5,500 years before [Biblical Israelite leader] Joshua Bin-Nun came and burned my hometown, Jericho.”