Israel’s PM rejects Kerry’s boycott warning

Netanyahu says “no pressure” will make him concede Israel’s “vital interests” after Kerry warns the Jewish state of growing boycott threat

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected on Sunday remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warning of a growing boycott threat against the Jewish state if peace talks fail.

“Attempts to impose a boycott on the State of Israel are immoral and unjust. Moreover, they will not achieve their goal,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting, according to Agence France Presse.

"Second, no pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the State of Israel, especially the security of Israel's citizens. For both of these reasons, threats to boycott the State of Israel will not achieve their goal," he added.

Netanyahu's remarks came a day after Kerry touched a nerve in Israel by pointing to "an increasing de-legitimization" campaign building up against it internationally and "talk of boycotts" if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not end.

During the meeting in Munich, forum Kerry warned of the potential economic impact on Israel.

“For Israel, the stakes are also enormously high," the U.S. diplomat said.

"For Israel there's an increasing de-legitimisation campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things," Kerry said.

The status quo could not be maintained if the talks were to collapse, he warned.

"It's not sustainable. It's illusionary. There's a momentary prosperity, there's a momentary peace ... But the fact is the status quo will change if there is failure," he added.

Meanwhile, some Israeli ministers directly addressed Kerry's remarks.

Kerry is holding a gun to Israel's head in peace talks with the Palestinians following his warning, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz of Netanyahu's Likud party said, according to Reuters News Agency.

"What Kerry said is offensive, unfair and intolerable," Steinitz told army radio ahead of the cabinet meeting, according to AFP.

"You can't expect Israel to negotiate with a gun at its head while it discusses issues critical to its diplomatic and security interests," he added.

In a similar development, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister of the far-right Jewish Home party, which is part of the coalition but against territorial concessions to Palestinians, said: "There is no nation that would give its country up over economic threats, and neither will we."

"We expect our friends in the world to stand by our side in the face of the anti-Semitic boycott attempts, not amplify them," he added.

As far as Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman is concerned, she said in an emailed statement that Kerry remained staunchly opposed to any boycott of Israel and was simply describing "previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides" if peacemaking failed.

"Secretary Kerry has always expected opposition and difficult moments in the process, but he also expects all parties to accurately portray his record and statements," she wrote, according to Reuters.

A growing number of governments and international businesses have in recent months said they will not trade with any Israeli firms with ties to Jewish settlements, highlighting the creeping success of a Palestinian-led boycott campaign.

The so-called BDS movement -- boycott, divestment and sanctions -- works to convince governments, businesses and celebrities to cut all ties with Israeli companies active in the occupied Palestinian territories, in a bid to repeat the success of the boycott which ended apartheid in South Africa.

[With Reuters and AFP]

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