Economy Minister Naftali Bennett slammed US Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday night, saying he should be supporting Israel rather than encouraging boycotts against it.
“Let’s make clear to all those giving advice: A nation has not been born – including us – that will give up its land because of economic threats,” Bennett said in a Facebook post. “The Jewish people is stronger than the threats against it.”
Bennett’s post – coming weeks after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was quoted as calling Kerry “obsessed” and “messianic” about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict – was in response to comments that the secretary of state made Saturday at the Munich Security Conference.
“Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained,” Kerry said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It is not sustainable. It is illusionary.
You see for Israel there is an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it, there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?” Kerry’s comments were similar to ones he made during a television interview during one of his visits in November, though this time he did not warn, as he did then, of the outbreak of a third intifada.
Bennett, on his Facebook page, said that only security would bring economic stability, not a terror state next to Ben-Gurion Airport.
“We expect our friends in the world to stand by our side against anti-Semitic boycott efforts against Israel, and not be their trumpet,” he said.
“Either way, we knew in the past, and will know today, how to remain strong.”
Kerry, during his comments, made an allusion to Ya’alon’s comments last month.
“I’m a little surprised at some of the articles that tend to write about an obsession or fanatical effort to try to achieve this,” he said. “We are just working hard, because the consequences of failure are unacceptable.”
He said he remained hopeful that the Obama administration’s effort to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians could succeed.
“I believe in the possibility or I wouldn’t pursue this,” he said. “I don’t think we’re being quixotic.
Ya’alon was also in Munich for the conference, and met with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“The US is Israel’s best friend, and our appreciation is great,” Ya’alon said. “We have common values, interests, and deep ties that overcome disagreements, when they appear.”
The defense minister, who has expressed deep skepticism about chances of success in the Kerry-led negotiations, said that “despite the gaps, we support a continuation of negotiations with the Palestinians.”
Last week, Bennett lashed out at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for suggesting that some settlers would live in a Palestinian state following a peace deal, and while the criticism nearly caused a coalition crisis, it found support on the Right. Likewise, Bennett was not alone when he turned his sights on Kerry for mentioning a threat of boycotts.
“The only fantasies are the slogans of peace Kerry is trying to sell to Israel,” Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said. “These slogans are trying to cover up an existential threat on the State of Israel. The Palestinians do not believe their luck at receiving such a ‘fair’ mediator.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said that while Israel respected Kerry, there could not be negotiations “with a gun to our heads.”
“Friends don’t make ultimatums about the security of the State of Israel,” Danon stated. “We will make decisions that protect our interests. If we would make decisions according to predictions of boycotts, we wouldn’t be here today. We’ve seen in the past that terror arrives in any place the IDF doesn’t have a presence.”
And Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud Beytenu) added, “Kerry’s unprecedented threats of a boycott are an attempt to terrorize Israel and force it into an agreement that opposes the government’s position. Such an agreement would endanger Israel more than any economic boycott.”
Meanwhile, the fog thickened over the weekend regarding what exactly is and is not being discussed between the sides and the US regarding the document Kerry is expected to present that will form a basis for continued negotiations. Israel and the Palestinian negotiators have not met for a number of weeks, and all the talks now are between the sides separately with the Americans.
The State Department on Friday issued a clarification regarding an off-record telephone briefing that US envoy Martin Indyk gave Jewish leaders on Thursday, saying the description Indyk gave of a possible US-drafted framework was not final.
“During an off-the-record briefing with Jewish leaders, Ambassador Indyk reiterated the well-known United States position in support of 1967 borders plus swaps as a part of a broad discussion on ideas being discussed for a framework,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “But given this is an ongoing process and these decisions have not yet been made, at no point did Ambassador Indyk make a prediction of the final contents of a framework.”
In the call, Indyk detailed security arrangements on the Jordan-West Bank border, the terms for mutual recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jews and Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinians, land swaps, and the settlement of the refugee question, including, for the first time in a formal document, compensation for Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
“I hope that Jewish refugees, who suffered greatly under physical persecution, will get reparations,” Knesset Caucus for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries chairman MK Shimon Ohayon (Likud Beytenu) said. “This is an opportunity to learn and recognize the story of their exit and expulsion.”
According to Ohayon, the progress on this front is a result of the Foreign Ministry putting Jewish refugees from Arab countries on its agenda.
State Department officials said that there was no expectation that the framework would be completed in “weeks,” although Indyk had said it was his hope that it would.
Indyk said in the call that there would be “no surprises” for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and that Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be expected to accept the agreement, with reservations, as the basis of continued negotiations.
Making it a US-drafted framework permitted the leaders to distance themselves from politically sensitive issues, Indyk said. “There may be things we need to say because they can’t say them yet,” he said, according to the notes of one participant.
On some sensitive issues – particularly the status of Jerusalem – the framework would be vague, Indyk said.
Regarding Indyk’s reference during the call to the expectation that land swaps would allow 75-80% of settlers to stay in Israel, the officials said that that arose not from the current talks but from previous estimates during the 20-year-long peace process. Indyk, during the call, said his impression was that Abbas was not averse to allowing settlers who want to remain to be citizens of the Palestinian state.
Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria head Dani Dayan disputed Indyk’s claim on Friday morning, saying Indyk was including east Jerusalem in the 80% of settlers that would stay under Israeli rule.
“Martin Indyk’s vision for the Jews of Judea and Samaria is extremely misleading,” Dayan said in a statement.
“When Indyk speaks of 80% of our communities remaining under Israeli rule, he is including eastern Jerusalem. Which would mean the forceful uprooting and eviction of up to 150,000 Israelis from their homes, which is morally repugnant and unacceptable to all,” he added.
In a related development, representatives of the Quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – met on the sidelines of the Munich conference and issued strong support for Kerry’s efforts. They reiterated, in a reference to the EU’s promise of upgraded relations with both sides if a deal is reached, that there would be unprecedented support for both Israel and the Palestinians if an accord was signed.
JTA contributed to this report.