A Jewish Home party MK insinuated on Thursday morning that US Secretary of State John Kerry was at least partially motivated by anti-Semitism in his efforts to forge a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
“The prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) is maneuvering under the obsessive and unprofessional pressures that might also bear an undertone of anti-Semitism on Kerry’s part,” MK Moti Yogev told Israel Radio.
“He has an anti-Israel foundation in that he does not come to compromise, but instead comes with unequivocal answers about shrinking the Land of Israel and establishing a Palestinian state,” Yogev added. “The members of my faction also think that he is not a fair broker and he is not fit to mediate here because his positions are predetermined.”
Yogev also lambasted Netanyahu in the interview, saying that “there is no circus performer [who can compare to] the prime minister in his maneuverings.”
Earlier in January, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was quoted as making scathing statements about Kerry’s involvement in the peace negotiations, calling him “obsessive” and “messianic,” and describing his West Bank security proposals as worthless. The comments elicited outrage from Washington that led to an apology from the defense minister.
Yogev’s comments on Thursday came amid a public spat between Netanyahu and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, revolving around Bennett’s reaction to a statement by an official close to Netanyahu – first reported by The Times of Israel – to the effect that the prime minister was insisting that West Bank settlers be given the choice to remain in their homes under Palestinian rule.
Bennett had said on Tuesday that leaving settlers in a Palestinian state was unthinkable because, among other reasons, it would represent a reversal of Zionism and the settlers would be killed by their Palestinian neighbors. In an apparent thinly veiled reference to Netanyahu, he added that history “won’t forgive” an Israeli leader who relinquishes parts of the Land of Israel under a peace deal.
Bennett was forced to issue a semi-apology after Netanyahu threatened to fire Bennett.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that Bennett was right to apologize. “One may disagree with the prime minister, and one may argue with him, but one cannot lash out at the prime minister.
“There was never any intention to leave Israeli residents under Palestinian rule,” Liberman also asserted. Analysts and critics had said that Netanyahu’s statement about leaving settlers in a future Palestine may have been a ruse meant to elicit a strong public reaction from the Palestinians.
On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that Kerry’s pending framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace would include a shared capital in Jerusalem and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
The “Kerry Plan,” as he called it, would also include land swaps based on the 1967 lines, security arrangements in the Jordan Valley, and no “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
The two sides began a nine-month track of US-backed peace negotiations in July but so far there has been little visible progress, with the Palestinians warning that after the deadline, they could take legal action in the international courts against Israel over its settlement expansion on land they want for their future state.
Several Israeli politicians and a host of pundits have said they believe Israel will be blamed if the current round of talks with the Palestinians fails to produce an agreement.
Senior Israeli officials, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, have warned that absent an agreement leading to two states, Israel will face a severe backlash and be isolated economically and politically from the international community.
JTA contributed to this report.