Israel spars with Kerry over possible boycott efforts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 9:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 7:34am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry sparred over peacemaking, as a global campaign to sanction the mainly Jewish state for its settlements gains momentum.

A day after Kerry warned Israel of the economic damage sanctions could cause, Netanyahu said on Sunday that the boycott only prodded the Palestinians to reject compromises needed for peace.

"Attempts to impose a boycott on the state of Israel are immoral and unjust," Netanyahu told his cabinet at its weekly meeting in Jerusalem. The boycott won't succeed because it will encourage the Palestinians "to adhere to their intransigent positions and thus push peace further away", he said.

Netanyahu's comments follow recent international steps to boycott or sanction businesses operating in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Kerry addressed these sanctions at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, cautioning Israel about an "increasing delegitimisation campaign" that includes "talks of boycotts". He said the relative calm and prosperity that Israel now enjoys is "illusionary".

After Netanyahu spoke, Kerry's office issued a statement saying that he had steadfastly defended Israel against boycott efforts and "expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements".

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett was direct in his criticism of Kerry. "We expect our friends abroad to stand by our side against the boycott efforts," Bennett wrote on Facebook.