"The risks are very high for Israel": US Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo: AFP
Jerusalem: The US Secretary of State was accused of supporting "anti Semitic" interests on Sunday after warning that Israel faced an economic boycott if it failed to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
John Kerry made the comment as he held talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Munich, where they promised to step up diplomacy on Tehran's nuclear programme.
Ministers in the cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Mr Kerry of effectively endorsing "anti-Semitic" efforts to impose sanctions on the country. "The risks are very high for Israel," Mr Kerry told the conference. "People are talking about boycotts. That will intensify in the case of failure.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: AP
"Do they want a failure that then begs whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community?"
The remarks were made against a backdrop of new European Union regulations barring deals with Israeli businesses based in West Bank settlements, but they provoked claims that he was threatening Israel in peace talks with the Palestinians.
Israel's Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said: "The things Kerry said are hurtful, they are unfair and they are intolerable.
Proposal for a US-led NATO force to patrol border: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Reuters
"Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head when we are discussing the matters which are most critical to our national interests."
Naftali Bennett, the Industry Minister and head of the far-right Jewish Home party, said: "We expect of our friends in the world to stand by our side against the attempts to impose an anti-Semitic boycott on Israel, and not to be their mouthpiece."
An official in the Settlers' Council, Adi Mintz, accused Mr Kerry of "an anti-Semitic initiative". Mr Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting that efforts to impose a boycott were "immoral and unjust" and doomed to fail.
John Kerry speaks at the Munich Security Conference. Photo: Reuters
The US State Department denied that Mr Kerry, who is trying to draw up a framework agreement between Israel and Palestine, was backing an embargo.
"His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed," said Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman. "[ Mr Kerry] expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements."
Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, has proposed to Mr Kerry that a US-led NATO force patrol a future Palestinian state indefinitely, with troops positioned throughout the territory, at all crossings, and within Jerusalem.
Mr Abbas told The New York Times that Israeli soldiers could remain in the West Bank for up to five years - not three, as he previously stated - and that Jewish settlements should be phased out of the new Palestinian state along a similar timetable.
Palestine, he said, would not have its own army, only a police force, so the NATO mission would be responsible for preventing the weapons smuggling and terrorism that Israel fears.
"For a long time, and wherever they want, not only on the eastern borders, but also on the western borders, everywhere," Mr Abbas said of the imagined NATO mission. "The third party can stay. They can stay to reassure the Israelis, and to protect us.
"We will be demilitarised. Do you think we have any illusion that we can have any security if the Israelis do not feel they have security?"
Telegraph, London, New York Times