Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, decried “personal attacks” on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as “unacceptable,” the latest salvo in increasingly testy exchanges between the Netanyahu and Obama governments.
“Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable,” Rice said on her official Twitter account on Monday evening.
“John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity rock solid,” she continued in subsequent tweets. “POTUS and Sec Kerry remain committed to negotiations that can secure Israeli and Palestinian futures,” she said, using the acronym for president of the United States. “U.S. Govt has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”
Rice did not specify the attackers, but a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday appeared to take Kerry to task for a speech he delivered the day before at an international conference in Munich, in which he warned that a failure to achieve a peace deal could isolate Israel and lead to boycotts.
“Attempts to impose a boycott on the State of Israel are immoral and unjust,” Netanyahu said.
“Moreover, they will not achieve their goal. First, they cause the Palestinians to adhere to their intransigent positions and thus push peace further away,” he said. “Second, no pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the State of Israel, especially the security of Israel’s citizens. For both of these reasons, threats to boycott the State of Israel will not achieve their goal.”
Other Israeli officials took direct aim at Kerry. Naftali Bennett, the economics minister said Israel expected “our friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier.”
Kerry’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the Israeli remarks misrepresented Kerry, citing in a statement Kerry’s “proud record” in the Senate and as secretary of state defending Israel and saying that he “expects all parties to accurately portray his records and statements.”
Kerry, in his Munich speech, cast his warnings of Israel’s isolation as a possible outcome of the failure of peace talks. His State Department is preparing a framework for continued negotiations.
“I’m only just scratching the surface in talking about the possibilities, and I’ve learned not to go too deep in them because it gets misinterpreted that I’m somehow suggesting, ‘Do this or else,’ or something. I’m not,” he said. “We all have a powerful, powerful interest in resolving this conflict.”
He described what he said was “an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up” against Israel. “People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?”
Rice was the most senior official to directly rebuke the Israelis in tit for tat comments in recent weeks.
Last month, Moshe Yaalon in leaked comments called Kerry “messianic and obsessive” said that a U.S. proposal to secure the West Bank border with Jordan was not “worth the paper it’s written on.” In that instance, it was Psaki who said Yaalon’s remarks were “offensive and inappropriate.”