The U.S. State Department on Sunday responded harshly to criticism from senior Israeli officials over Secretary of State John Kerry's implications that Israel would face increased boycotts should peace talks fail.
"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.
"Just last year, while briefing Foreign Ministers at an EU conference in Vilnius on his peacemaking efforts, he urged them to refrain from implementing these types of measures," Psaki said.
Kerry, at a Munich security forum on Saturday, mentioned "talk of boycotts" if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not end.
"Are we all going to be better with all of that?" asked Kerry, who is seeking to seal a framework agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
"For Israel, the stakes are also enormously high," he said. "Do they want a failure that then begs whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community?"
Kerry's remarks elicited strong reactions from senior Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, among others.
Netanyahu on Sunday rejected Kerry's warnings regarding the danger of the boycott movement gaining strength against Israel.
"The attempts to boycott Israel are unethical and unjustified," Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. "Moreover, they won't achieve their goal."
The State Department's Psaki, however, defended Kerry's comments from Saturday, saying, "He spoke forcefully in defense of Israel's interests, as he consistently has throughout his public life."
She went on to say that Kerry, in response to a question about the peace process, "described some well-known and previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides if this process fails, including the consequences for the Palestinians. His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed."
Psaki said Kerry has always "expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements."
Bennett, meanwhile, said that Israel expects its friends around the world "to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier."
Bennett's remarks were followed Sunday by comments from Steinitz.
"The things ... Kerry said are hurtful, they are unfair and they are intolerable," Steinitz said.
"Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head when we are discussing the matters which are most critical to our national interests."
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