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Major Jewish Organization Slams John Kerry Over Israel Boycott Comments

“...absence of similar tough talk...for Palestinians should the talks fail.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry waves while boarding his plane at Franz-Josef-Strauss Airport in Munich, southern Germany, on Sunday Feb. 2, 2014. Kerry was in the Bavarian capital to attend the Munich Security Conference. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski,Pool)I

The Anti-Defamation League says that Secretary of State John Kerry’s suggestion that Israel will face more boycotts if it does not accept the peace framework he is proposing will “create a reality of its own” and make boycotts of the Jewish state more likely.

“Describing the potential for expanded boycotts of Israel makes it more, not less, likely that the talks will not succeed; makes it more, not less, likely that Israel will be blamed if the talks fail; and more, not less, likely that boycotts will ensue," Abraham Foxman, the national director of the organization said in an open letter to Kerry.

Secretary of State John Kerry waves while boarding his plane at Franz-Josef-Strauss Airport in Munich, southern Germany, on Sunday Feb. 2, 2014 after attending the Munich Security Conference. (AP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

Foxman questioned why the secretary of state, as the "key player in the process” had no “similar tough talk” for the Palestinians.

“Your comments, irrespective of your intentions, will inevitably be seen by Palestinians and anti-Israel activists as an incentive not to reach an agreement; as an indicator that if things fall apart, Israel will be blamed; and as legitimizing boycott activity,” he said in the letter released Monday. “What is particularly troubling about your comments is the absence of similar tough talk about the consequences for Palestinians should the talks fail.”

Foxman asserted that the “core of the conflict was and remains Palestinian unwillingness to accept Israel’s legitimacy and permanence as a Jewish state” which is why the Palestinians time after time have rejected various proposed peace plans with Israel.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded Monday saying she disagreed with Foxman’s suggestion that Kerry’s words would create a new reality that would make it easier for the Palestinians to walk away from negotiations.

Kerry was criticized over the weekend by Israeli ministers for invoking the threat of boycotts, with one minister calling his words “offensive and unacceptable.”

At the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Kerry said: “[Y]ou see for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. 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?”

Israel’s Minister of Communications and Home Front Gilad Erdan accused Kerry of “trying to incite economic blackmail against Israel,” according to quotes published in Israeli newspaper Maariv and translated by the American Jewish newspaper the Algemeiner. In a speech to the Jerusalem Conference, Erdan further criticized Kerry for presenting himself as a mere spectator of regional events rather than a key player.

“You would expect an honest and objective broker to turn to the Palestinian side and assert that there will be a price to pay for continuing to deny the Jewish people’s right to their own state, for continuing its policy of rejectionism and for continuing to use official [Palestinian Authority] media outlets and the education system to incite against Israel,” Erdan said.

But the European Union's ambassador to Israel echoed Kerry’s comments about possible boycotts.  Lars Faaborg-Andersen told Israel’s Channel 2 News on Monday that if peace talks fail, "the blame will be put on Israel" and it would likely face ‘’increasing isolation.’’

According to the European Jewish Press, Faaborg-Andersen said the boycotts wouldn’t necessarily stem from European government policy, but rather the will of private companies and consumer choice.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Monday night blasted what she called “personal attacks” on Kerry from the Israeli government, calling them “unfounded and unacceptable.”

In a series of tweets defending the secretary of state, Rice posted: “U.S. Govt has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”

But some analysts, including Jonathan Tobin of Commentary Magazine, believe Kerry’s remarks would only serve to embolden supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“Though the administration must oppose such boycotts, Kerry’s remarks conferred a spurious legitimacy to the BDSers who will push to isolate Israel no matter who is to blame for the failure of Kerry’s initiative,” Tobin wrote Tuesday.

Tobin called it “shameful” that Kerry “fed the simmering hatred” among European proponents of boycotting Israel.

“Whether his failure to speak out was deliberate or a negligently lost chance to put the U.S. clearly on record as adamantly against the BDS movement is not important. As long as the U.S. and the EU are working in tandem to taunt and threaten Israel in this fashion, they are both serving as the enablers of a highly dangerous and hate-driven movement,” Tobin said.

One last thing…
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