A senior Israeli official on Sunday accused US Secretary of State John Kerry of being biased against Israel in his efforts to secure a peace deal with the Palestinians.
“He is adopting a one-sided stance and isn’t putting any pressure on [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas,” the anonymous source told Israel Radio. “He pressures Israel and grinds it down, while Abbas hasn’t moved his stance one millimeter.” This pressure, the official added, erodes Israel’s negotiation position before a framework agreement has even been formulated and put forward.
The unnamed official’s statement came a day after Kerry said at the Munich Security Conference that failure by Israel to reach a deal with the Palestinians would harm Israel’s capacity to be a Jewish and democratic state, and warned that Israel’s current relative security could change entirely should negotiations break down.
Regarding Kerry’s warning of looming international boycotts of Israel should this round of peace talks fail, the official said that the matter was worrisome, but not critical.
The official also accused Finance Minister Yair Lapid of “waving the Palestinian flag,” Israel Radio reported, after having spoken of a united, Israeli, Jerusalem in his election campaign. The source said Lapid and chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni are causing Israel to appear fractured at a time when it should be presenting a united front.
According to Channel 2 correspondent Udi Segel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to raise the issue of Kerry’s statements about the rising tide of international boycotts of Israel in Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
A report emerged Saturday night that Israel is ready to accept Kerry’s framework agreement as the basis for continued negotiations with the Palestinians, with Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman all inclined to accept the US framework terms.
The framework document would have to be finalized in the next few weeks, ahead of a scheduled fourth and final phase of Palestinian prisoner releases set for March, the report said.
The US framework document, whose terms will not have to be signed off as fully binding by the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, provides for talks on Palestinian statehood based on the pre-1967 lines with land swaps to enable 75 to 80 percent of settlers to come under Israeli sovereignty, relates to Israel as the Jewish state, provides for compensation for refugees but no Palestinian “right of return,” and does not go into detail on the fate of Jerusalem, the State Department’s lead envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Martin Indyk, indicated in a conference call with American Jewish leaders on Thursday.
Well-placed political sources told The Times of Israel over the weekend, meanwhile, that Netanyahu’s agreement to continue peace talks on the basis of the framework proposal need not provoke a coalition crisis with the right-wing Jewish Home party. Provided the framework deal was not binding and was not brought to a government vote, the sources said, the party’s leader, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, would likely not choose to bolt the coalition over it.
Reports in recent weeks have indicated that the Palestinian Authority is set to reject the framework document, but these reports have not been confirmed.
Earlier Saturday, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Kerry said failure to reach a peace deal would damage Israel’s capacity to be “a democratic state with the particular special Jewish character that is a central part of the narrative and of the future.”
Kerry said he was utterly certain that the current status quo was “not sustainable… It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity. There’s a momentary peace.” But that would end if the talks failed, he said, noting that already Israel was facing increased delegitimization and boycott threats. (A series of banks and pension funds in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Holland have announced a cessation of dealings with Israeli banks and companies in recent days because of those firms’ West Bank activities.)
In response, Bennett accused Kerry of incitement and of serving as a “mouthpiece” for anti-Semitic elements attempting to boycott Israel.
To Kerry “and all advisers,” Bennett wrote in a Facebook post, “the Jewish people are stronger than the threats against them.” He added that the Jews would not “surrender their land” as a result of economic pressure.
“Only security will bring economic stability, not a terrorist state close to Ben-Gurion Airport. We expect our friends around the world to stand by our side to face the anti-Semitic attempts to boycott Israel, not to be their mouthpiece,” Bennett added.
“In any case, we knew how to stay strong in the past and we will now as well,” he concluded.