Update: The State Department has addressed the Israeli media report. Its comments can be seen below.
Israeli officials are expressing concern that Secretary of State John Kerry is quietly supporting European threats to boycott Israeli entities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as a negotiating tactic to pressure Israel, Israel’s Army Radio reported Tuesday.
The unnamed sources told the radio station that they believe the U.S. administration, “and in particular the Secretary of State John Kerry, stand behind European threats over boycotting products and pressuring commercial entities not to work with those in the [West Bank] settlements.”
The sources further said they believe that Kerry wants to make sure that the threats for now remain threats, but that if Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fail, he will “release the reins and the threats will turn into actions.”
The concerns voiced by the unnamed Israeli officials appear to be at odds with reports in September that Kerry then urged the European Union to postpone its planned ban on EU financial assistance to Israeli organizations in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories that the Palestinians consider to be theirs.
But the right-wing news site Arutz Sheva wrote on Tuesday that Kerry’s success in September only offers further proof that he is playing the European card to pressure Israel.
“Palestinian Authority (PA) officials reported last September that Kerry was putting pressure on the EU to delay boycotts so as to give him an opportunity to push Israel into peace talks. That report also appears to support the new revelations regarding Kerry’s manipulation of anti-Israel boycotts,” it wrote on Tuesday evening.
In July, the European Union published guidelines on funding Israeli projects in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Golan Heights, territories Israel captured during the 1967 War. The move aimed to make more difficult the ability of Israeli entities operating there to receive grants from EU countries.
The Army Radio report was not raised Tuesday at the daily State Department briefing; however, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about it during Wednesday’s briefing.
“It’s hard to see how that would make sense given the Secretary expressed just a few months ago publicly his desire to see a delay in EU taking – European Union – sorry – taking action that would be unhelpful to the process,” she said.
“We’re not encouraging anyone to take steps that would be unhelpful to the process,” Psaki said.
Asked if the Obama administration’s position continues to be that the EU should hold off such a boycott, Psaki answered, “That has been our position. I’m not aware of a change.”
Kerry this week made his tenth trip to the region since taking office in an effort to negotiate a peace framework between Israel and the Palestinian Authority for which he said “tough choices” remain.
This story has been updated to include State Department reaction.