Some senior Israeli cabinet ministers would oppose any peace agreement with the Palestinians, regardless of its terms, Justice Minister and chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni charged on Wednesday.
Livni added that she was “shocked” by the personal attacks voiced by leading right-wing figures in recent days against US Secretary of State John Kerry over his warnings that an international boycott would be imminent should peace talks fail.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Livni said she was deeply disturbed by the verbal attacks on Kerry, and that such tactics do not benefit Israel.
“Ministers and others are speaking in a way that upsets me as an Israeli,” she said. “There are people who don’t want to reach an agreement; they don’t care what Kerry will present” in an expected American framework proposal for the peace talks.
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.”
Livni has defended Kerry’s statements and harshly criticized right-wing lawmakers who had lambasted the top American diplomat, accusing them of undermining diplomatic relations with Israel’s closest ally.
“Some of those who speak harshly against the US secretary of state would lower their eyes in embarrassment if they knew what Kerry has done to prevent these threats and these boycotts,” Livni said Monday at a Knesset faction meeting of the Hatnua party, which she heads.
“The role of leaders is to grapple with reality, to foresee changes as much as possible and to recognize threats,” she said. “These can be security threats, like the threat of Iran and terror, and these can be threats that lead to Israel’s isolation.”
In an apparent rebuke to Kerry, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) on Monday stressed that Israel would not capitulate to economic threats, while Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) accused Kerry of “fanning the flames” of boycotts against Israel, rather than opposing them.
Bennett opened his address at the weekly Jewish Home faction meeting decrying the “propaganda barrage” designed to “scare us into handing over our land.”
“I’m telling everyone: You’ve made a mistake,” Bennett said. ”You must not know the Jewish nation; the Jewish nation is stronger than these threats. We will not collapse in the face of intimidation.”
“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 like 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.
Netanyahu, after speaking to Kerry on Sunday night, said in comments apparently targeted at the right-wing critics that Kerry had unambiguously clarified he opposed such boycotts.
“The peace process is delicate. There may be periods of misunderstandings and disagreements,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “The best way to clarify misunderstandings or express differences of opinion is by substantively discussing the issues and not by engaging in personal attacks.”
The US administration has responded angrily to the criticism of Kerry.
On Monday night, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice lashed out at the critics, calling the attacks “totally unfounded and unacceptable.”
In a series of tweets, Rice wrote that “John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity [is] rock solid.” She also said the US government “has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”