Top US official pans Israeli criticism of Kerry

Security adviser Susan Rice unleashes series of tweets, calling ‘personal attacks’ on diplomat ‘unfounded and unacceptable’

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice (photo credit: AP/Craig Ruttle/File)
US National Security Advisor Susan Rice (photo credit: AP/Craig Ruttle/File)

White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice lashed out via her Twitter account Monday night at Israeli criticism of US Secretary of State John Kerry and his efforts toward brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Rice called personal attacks in Israel directed at the secretary “totally unfounded and unacceptable.”

Kerry has come under fire by right-wing Israeli politicians for warning over the weekend that Israel faces the serious threat of a widespread boycott and delegitimization campaign. Last month, comments by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon were published in which he called Kerry “inexplicably obsessive” and “messianic” and lambasted security arrangements drawn up by the secretary, saying his West Bank security proposal was “not worth the paper it is printed on” and would not provide security for Israel.

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.”

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Kerry said that 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.”

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.”

Kerry’s remarks drew fierce criticism from right-wing cabinet members including Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett and Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who called the comments “offensive and intolerable.”

On Saturday, 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.

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, November 6, 2013 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, November 6, 2013 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“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.

Kerry’s statements were dismissed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, who said “immoral and unjustified” boycotts would only “push peace farther away.”

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely and Likud MK and deputy minister Ofir Akunis also issued statements condemning Kerry’s remarks.

“Secretary Kerry has a proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel’s security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Sunday, in a statement denying Kerry’s support for economic measures against Israel.

“Just last year while briefing foreign ministers at an EU conference in Vilnius on peacemaking efforts, he urged them to refrain from these measures,” Psaki said.

“Secretary Kerry has always expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements.”

Justice Minister and chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni defended Kerry on Monday, saying, “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.”

And Netanyahu, after speaking to Kerry on Sunday night, issued a statement saying Kerry had made clear once again “that he opposes boycotts against Israel. This is an important clarification. It maintains the traditional American policy against the Arab boycott of Israel, in which the US both opposed and acted against such boycotts.”

Netanyahu added that, “We trust the United States will continue to actively oppose any boycotts against Israel. The peace process is delicate. There may be periods of misunderstandings and disagreements. The best way to clarify misunderstandings or express differences of opinion is by substantively discussing the issues and not by engaging in personal attacks.”

Marissa Newman and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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