JERUSALEM // Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected remarks by the US secretary of state John Kerry warning of a growing boycott threat if peace talks fail with Palestinians fail.
“Attempts to impose a boycott on the state of Israel are immoral and unjust. Moreover, they will not achieve their goal,” Mr Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting.
“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.”
Mr Netanyahu’s remarks came a day after Mr Kerry warned of the potential economic impact on Israel.
“For Israel, the stakes are also enormously high,” the US diplomat warned at a security conference in Munich.
“For Israel there’s an increasing delegitimisation campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things,” he 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.”
Some Israeli ministers directly addressed Mr Kerry’s remarks.
“What Kerry said is offensive, unfair and intolerable,” the intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party told army radio ahead of the cabinet meeting.
“You can’t expect Israel to negotiate with a gun at its head while it discusses issues critical to its diplomatic and security interests.”
And the economy minister, Naftali Bennett 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 said.
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 – aims 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.
Last week, the US actress Scarlett Johansson was forced to chose between being an ambassador for Oxfam and taking on a new role as the public face of Israel’s SodaStream, which has a factory in the West Bank, after the international aid group said the two roles were “incompatible”.
She resigned her position at Oxfam.
On the same day, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund blacklisted two Israeli companies involved in settlements construction in annexed east Jerusalem.
Since January 1, the European Union has also blocked all grants and funding to Israeli entities operating beyond the pre-1967 war lines, sparking growing alarm in Israel.
Mr Kerry coaxed Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table in late July for nine months of direct talks which will end in April. So far, there has been very little visible progress, with Israeli plans to expand settlements drawing strong protests from the Palestinians.
* Agence France-Presse