Efforts to boycott Israel are neither moral nor justified, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, amid a growing public sense that the boycott and divestment movement is gaining traction.
Moreover, Netanyahu said, these efforts will not achieve their aims.
“First of all, they cause the Palestinians to become entrenched behind their obstinate positions and push peace farther away, and secondly, no pressure will cause me to give up Israeli vital interests, first and foremost the security of Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu’s comments came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the Munich Security Conference that the Israeli-Palestinian status quo is not sustainable and illusory.
“You see for Israel there is an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up,” Kerry said. “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?”
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told reporters at the beginning of the meeting that Kerry’s words were “offensive and unacceptable.” He said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with “a gun against its head.” Steinitz also said that this could harm the negotiations by increasing the Palestinian motivation to torpedo them. A failure of the talks, according to this logic, would be blamed on Israel, thereby increasing the boycott calls.
Following Netanyahu’s comments, Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud Beytenu) commended the prime minister for his “hard line” against Kerry.
“[US President Barack] Obama and Kerry are acting unilaterally and only putting pressure on Israel,” Hotovely said. “[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] is calmly maintaining his positions, while Israel is being told to make painful concessions that endanger it and its citizens. That is not how negotiations should be run.”
Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked pointed to what she said is faulty logic behind Kerry’s threat: “While in 2013, Israel had a record high in imports, Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to lay the groundwork for an economic boycott.”
The prime minister also faced criticism from the Left in relation to his handling of the peace process.
“Netanyahu exposed us to the threat of sanctions, which is even more dangerous than Iran,” MK Merav Michaeli (Labor). “Israeli security is a fantasy if we don’t have a diplomatic treaty, and that includes our economic security.”
Michaeli called for Netanyahu to “wake up, take responsibility for the country and stop being prime minister of the settlers, be every citizen’s prime minister.”
With Israeli politicians pouncing on Kerry for allegedly encouraging a boycott against Israel, the State Department issued a statement Sunday urging that Kerry’s words be portrayed “accurately.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Kerry has a “proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel’s security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts. Just last year, while briefing Foreign Ministers at an EU conference in Vilnius on his peacemaking efforts, he urged them to refrain from implementing these types of measures.”