The White House overnight Monday issued a strong defense of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry following blistering criticism of him from senior Israeli government officials.
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Susan Rice, U.S. President Barack Obama's national security adviser, took to Twitter to lash out at Israeli leaders who have criticized Kerry for implying that Israel could face increased isolation should peace negotiations with the Palestinians fail.
"Personal attacks in Israel directed at Secretary Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable," Rice tweeted.
Kerry, at a Munich security forum on Saturday, mentioned "talk of boycotts" if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not end.
"…You see for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up," Kerry said. "People are very sensitive to it. There [is] talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?"
Kerry also warned that "today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace."
Following Kerry's comments, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and other MKs issued harsh responses. Some of these included personal attacks on the secretary of state; others implied he was not an impartial mediator and still others accused him of being anti-Israel. Bennett went so far as to say Kerry is acting as a "mouthpiece for anti-Semitic boycott threats."
Among her series of tweets on the issue, Rice wrote that Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity is "rock solid." She also tweeted that the U.S. government has been "clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel" and that Obama and Kerry "remain committed to negotiations that can secure Israeli and Palestinian futures."
Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable.— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) February 4, 2014
U.S. Govt has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) February 4, 2014
Rice issued her strong defense of Kerry just hours after State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a press briefing that Kerry was "frustrated" that senior Israeli leaders, following the Munich conference, would "distort his words or his record."
After rejecting Kerry's remarks on Sunday, Netanyahu on Monday tried to ease the building tension. Speaking at a Likud party meeting, the prime minister urged fellow Likud members not to make personal attacks on Kerry. He also noted that he spoke with Kerry on Sunday, and that, during their conversation, Kerry emphasized that he opposes all boycotts of Israel.
"The U.S. has opposed boycotts of Israel in the past and we expect it to continue to do so," Netanyahu said at the Likud meeting. "We are in the midst of a complex, sensitive and difficult process, and there may be misunderstandings down the line. The way to clarify our differences is by dealing with the substance [of the matter], not the individual."