The US applauded Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s strong message of support for Secretary of State John Kerry, whom he called a “true friend of Israel” during a public speech in Tel Aviv on Friday.
“It certainly is a powerful statement and a powerful message given [Liberman’s] history and his background on these issues and where his view was,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington later that day.
Washington has viewed Liberman warily in the past, given his reputation as a rightwing politician who lives in a West Bank settlement, coupled with his blunt style of speaking, which can at times sound undiplomatic.
But on Friday as Liberman addressed Israel’s Industrial and Commercial Association, the foreign minister took the diplomatic and statesmanlike high road when he spoke positively of Kerry, whom Israeli politicians have verbally attacked and lampooned over the past few weeks.
“John Kerry is a true friend of Israel,” Liberman said. “I do not see the wisdom of transforming friends into enemies.”
The foreign minister added that lately it seems politicians are in a contest with each other as to who can make the most scathing comments about Kerry. That politicians do not agree with everything the secretary of state thinks, Liberman said, is not a secret and their statements should not be leaked to the media.
American politicians are not members of the right-wing organizations Beitar or Gush Emunim, he said.
“They have a right to an opinion that is different from me or from my cousin [Economic Minister Naftali] Bennett,” Liberman said.
He added that Kerry was handling this nine-month phase of the peace process with the Palestinians in the right manner.
Psaki said “we certainly welcomed his remarks and his sentiment and the importance of the peace process, and it’s a reflection of, of course, the belief of many people in Israel that a twostate solution is the right outcome at the end of this process.”
“It doesn’t mean there’s an end to opponents for a twostate solution, an end to opponents of a peace process, but certainly, we’re hopeful that we can get back to the focus on the difficult issues at hand,” she added.
On Friday US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro defended Kerry in an interview with Army Radio, particularly in light of harsh criticism he received for comments he made in Munich last week warning that Israel could face growing isolation and boycotts if the peace process failed.
“There were attempts to distort the record of John Kerry. Almost everyday there were voices accusing him of supporting boycotts and even anti-Semitism – these things are destructive and certainly a distortion of reality,” Shapiro said.
Speaking at the 11th Annual Jerusalem Conference on Wednesday, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel didn’t name Kerry directly, but said those who tried to pressure Israel with boycott warnings were revitalizing an old anti-Semitic charge that Jews only care about money.
In a Washington Post article published on Saturday, Kerry said his Munich statement was taken out of context by those who overlooked his long record of support for Israel.
“There are those who do not want a two-state solution, who don’t believe in it. There are those who don’t want to stop settling certain parts of the region,” Kerry said in a piece by David Ignatius.
On Friday, former prime minister Ehud Olmert spoke of his support for Kerry, whom he said he had known for 25 years.
“He has a 100 percent voting record on behalf of Israel,” Olmert told Channel 2. “We won’t find anyone who is more friendly and more understanding to Israel than this secretary of state.”
He urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to do everything he could to sway his ministers to show respect for one of Israel’s closest friends.