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The harshest public attacks on Kerry — the ones that drew the rebukes from centrist American Jewish groups — have come from fairly marginal Israeli figures. U.S. officials, however, also are upset by criticism of Kerry coming from more significant figures within the Israeli government.
Senior Obama administration officials told JTA that Kerry has made his unhappiness clear in the daily phone calls he has with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The prime minister has been responsive. According to The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu told a party faction meeting last week that the best way to disagree with the Obama administration is by “substantively discussing the issues and not by engaging in personal attacks.” Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, told a group of businessmen in Tel Aviv that Kerry is a “true friend of Israel.”
“We deeply appreciate Secretary Kerry’s commitment to Israel’s security and to helping Israel achieve a lasting and secure peace with the Palestinians,” Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, told JTA. “Throughout his nearly 30-year tenure in the U.S. Senate and as secretary of state, Secretary Kerry has been a staunch supporter of Israel and of strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance.”
Most of the statements from centrist Jewish groups were triggered by remarks last month by Moti Yogev, a backbench Knesset member from the Jewish Home party who said in an interview that Kerry’s “obsessive” focus on the talks “may have anti-Semitic undertones.”
The American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League and World Jewish Congress condemned Yogev’s remarks.
The ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, called the comments “offensive” and “ beyond the bounds of legitimate critique.”
The Orthodox Union’s statement, which it issued with the Rabbinical Council of America, condemned the Israeli rabbis who had put out a letter likening Kerry to Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who destroyed the First Temple, and warning that the secretary of state could face “heavenly retribution.”