Israeli ministers denounce Kerry remarks on conflict

Kerry said that the unresolved Israel-Palestinian conflict was fuelling recruitment for ISIS

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Two senior Israeli government ministers lashed out at US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday over remarks he made linking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the growth of Islamic extremism.

“I respect John Kerry and his efforts but he keeps breaking new records in lack of understanding of our region and the essence of our disputes,” Communications Minister Gilad Erdan said in an interview with Israeli public radio.

“I think that this time it is really a new record,” he said.

Kerry, just back from a visit to Egypt for a multilateral conference on the reconstruction of Gaza, said on Thursday that in conversations he had heard that the unresolved Israel-Palestinian conflict was fuelling recruitment for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“There wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation,” Kerry said.

“People need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity,” he added.

Erdan, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party who holds a seat on the prestigious security cabinet, mocked the idea that building in West Bank settlements, such as Maaleh Adumim, near Jerusalem, was fanning the flames of jihad.

“‘Absence of dignity’, is that what’s causing the rise of Islamic State?” he asked.

“Two hundred thousand people murdered in Syria, British and Americans whose heads are being cut off ... is all this because of settlement in Maaleh Adumim?”

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads the far-right Jewish Home party and also is in the security cabinet, said that the world sought to make Israel a scapegoat for its troubles.

“Even when a British Muslim beheads a British Christian there will always be someone who blames the Jews,” he wrote on Twitter, alluding to the killings of two British aid workers -- recorded in videos posted online -- by a jihadist with an English accent.

Kerry has taken flak from Israel before, most recently in July during the military campaign in Gaza when anonymous officials hit out at Kerry’s truce proposal, calling it “a strategic terrorist attack”.

The US State Department called the allegations “offensive and absurd.”

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