As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to make efforts to defuse the controversy generated in the Knesset over US Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments at a conference in Munich earlier this month, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, said Kerry’s warning that failure to reach a peace agreement would result in more boycotts wasn’t intended to pressure Israel.
In an interview with Time magazine, Dermer, a close confidant and former senior adviser to Netanyahu, defended Kerry’s comments, saying they were “descriptive” and referred to extant pressure on Israel.
“Secretary Kerry is opposed to the boycotting of Israel, something he made clear again this week. [US] President [Barack] Obama has also been crystal clear about that,” Dermer, who is sometimes called “Bibi’s brain” due to his close association with the prime minister, was quoted as saying.
Dermer’s remarks came less than a fortnight after Kerry warned that Israel was facing a growing campaign of delegitimization, which could worsen if peace talks with the Palestinians collapsed.
“The risks are very high for Israel. People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure,” he said. “We all have a strong interest in this conflict resolution.” Kerry also said Israel’s current prosperity and security were “illusional,” “momentary” and unsustainable without a peace deal.
The secretary was harshly berated by hawkish Israeli politicians for the warning. The peace talks he is brokering began in July and are scheduled to end in April, with no concrete results in sight thus far.
Pushing back against his Israeli critics, Kerry said last week that his Munich statement had been taken out of context.
“My comments need to be properly represented, not distorted,” he said. “I did not do anything except cite what other people are talking about as a problem.”
Kerry has placed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict front and center on the State Department’s agenda, making 11 trips to the region since taking the reins from his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.
The so-called global BDS movement — boycott, divestment and sanctions — works to convince governments, businesses and celebrities to cut ties with Israeli companies active in the occupied Palestinian territories, in a bid to repeat the success of the boycott which ended apartheid in South Africa.
Times of Israel staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.