U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that he was unfazed by criticism in Israel over his peace efforts, saying that he was “threatened by real bullets” so words do not intimidate him.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Kerry was asked to respond to the Israeli ministers who criticized him earlier in the week after he threatened Israel with boycotts if peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) fail.
Several Israeli cabinet ministers responded to Kerry’s threats, including Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, who made clear that “a country has yet to be born that will give up its land because of economic threats, and we won’t either. Only security will bring financial stability, not a terror state next to the Ben Gurion Airport.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon shot down the idea that Israel might buckle under the pressure being exerted by Kerry.
“We want to negotiate,” he explained, “but we will not do it under the pressure coming from Secretary of State Kerry.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to Kerry’s threat and said, “Attempts to impose a boycott on the State of Israel are immoral and unjust.” Later, however, he instructed his ministers not to attack Kerry personally.
“My comments need to be properly represented, not distorted. I did not do anything except cite what other people are talking about as a problem,” Kerry told CNN in response on Wednesday.
“I also have always opposed boycotts. I have 100 percent voting record in support of Israel for 29 years in the United States Senate. Unfortunately, there are some people in Israel and in Palestine and in the Arab World and around the world that don’t support the peace process,” he added.
“Israel needs to understand we will always stand by its security needs,” Kerry declared, “but no one should distort what we’re doing or saying because they’re opposed to the peace process or don’t like two states or whatever.”
Referring to his service in Vietnam, he added, “And, you know, words – I have to tell you, my friend, I’ve been, attacked before by people using real bullets, not words, and I am not going to be intimidated. I am not going to stand down with respect to President Obama’s commitment to trying to find peace in the Middle East.”
Earlier Wednesday, Kerry’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki took Israel to task for criticizing his efforts to achieve peace.
“Any rhetoric that is inaccurate and critical as this is unhelpful. These kind of attacks are unacceptable. They not only distort his record but they distract from the key issues at hand,” she said.
“Peace isn’t a favor we’re doing for the Israelis and Palestinians, it’s something that the Israeli people and the Palestinian people want,” added Psaki.
On Monday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice blasted Israel over its criticism of Kerry’s boycott threats.
“Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable. John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity rock solid,” she wrote on Twitter, adding, “POTUS and Sec Kerry remain committed to negotiations that can secure Israeli and Palestinian futures.”
Her last tweet read, “U.S. Govt [sic] has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”