Israeli envoy to the United States Ron Dermer defended US Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview with TIME Magazine this week.
“I think he was making a descriptive statement,” Dermer told TIME. “I don’t think he was doing it in order to pressure Israel.”
“Secretary Kerry is opposed to the boycotting of Israel, something he made clear again this week. President Obama has also been crystal clear about that,” he continued.
Dermer, who arrived in Washington in December, was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's senior adviser and longtime confidante.
His comments to the magazine were part of a continued attempt by the government to diffuse tension between Israel and the United States more than a week after Israeli politicians lashed out at Kerry for hinting that Israel could be punished if the status quo does not change.
Kerry warned that an "increasing delegitimization campaign” was growing against Israel—including “talk of boycotts and other kinds of things,” at a conference in Munich on February 1.
The day after Kerry spoke, Netanyahu said that “[a]ttempts to impose a boycott on the state of Israel are immoral and unjust,” in a comment widely interpreted as a reproach to Kerry.
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett was particularly critical of Kerry's comments, saying, “We expect our friends in the world to stand by our side against anti-Semitic boycott efforts against Israel, and not be their trumpet.”
Since then, several Israeli leaders have come forward in support of Kerry, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who called Kerry “a true friend of Israel.”
Kerry, for his part, has played down any Israeli criticism of his efforts in the Middle East peace process.
“I’ve been, quote, ‘attacked’ before by people using real bullets, not words. And I am not going to be intimidated,” he said.