WASHINGTON (JTA) — National Security Advisor Susan Rice decried “personal attacks” on Secretary of State John Kerry as “unacceptable.”
It was the latest salvo in increasingly testy exchanges between the Netanyahu and Obama governments.
“Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable,” Rice said on her official Twitter account on Monday evening.
“John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity rock solid,” she continued in subsequent tweets. “POTUS and Sec Kerry remain committed to negotiations that can secure Israeli and Palestinian futures,” she said, using the acronym for president of the United States. “U.S. Govt has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”
A White House official said Rice was not targeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but other senior Israeli officials.
“The tweets were not directed at the prime minister, but were in response to ad hominem, on-the-record attacks by a series of senior Israeli officials against Secretary Kerry,” the official told JTA in an email. “Legitimate disagreement and debate is one thing, but these statements by senior officials crossed a line. Furthermore, they didn’t even reflect the reality of what Secretary Kerry had said, but instead distorted it.”
Some of the attacks came after Kerry delivered a speech Saturday at an international conference in Munich in which he warned that a failure to achieve a peace deal could isolate Israel and lead to boycotts.
Naftali Bennett, the economics minister, said Israel expected “our friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their amplifier.” Yuval Steinitz, the strategic affairs minister, called Kerry’s remarks “damaging, unfair and intolerable.”
Kerry in his Munich speech cast his warnings of Israel’s isolation as a possible outcome of the failure of peace talks. The State Department is preparing a framework for continued negotiations.
“I’m only just scratching the surface in talking about the possibilities, and I’ve learned not to go too deep in them because it gets misinterpreted that I’m somehow suggesting, ‘Do this or else,’ or something. I’m not,” he said. “We all have a powerful, powerful interest in resolving this conflict.”
Kerry described what he said was “an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up” against Israel. “People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?”
Kerry’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the Israeli remarks misrepresented Kerry, citing in a statement Kerry’s “proud record” in the Senate and as secretary of state defending Israel and saying that he “expects all parties to accurately portray his records and statements.”
Rice tweeted her observations after a day after Psaki commented, becoming the most senior official to directly rebuke the Israelis in tit for tat comments in recent weeks.
Last month, Moshe Yaalon in leaked comments called Kerry “messianic and obsessive” and said a U.S. proposal to secure the West Bank border with Jordan was not “worth the paper it’s written on.” In that instance, it was Psaki who said Yaalon’s remarks were “offensive and inappropriate.”
Netanyahu, for his part, said in a statement Sunday that the boycott movement would not succeed. “Attempts to impose a boycott on the State of Israel are immoral and unjust,” Netanyahu said.
“Moreover, they will not achieve their goal. First, they cause the Palestinians to adhere to their intransigent positions and thus push peace further away,” he said. “Second, no pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the State of Israel, especially the security of Israel’s citizens. For both of these reasons, threats to boycott the State of Israel will not achieve their goal.”