- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent comments about boycotting Israel as a result of a failed peace deal has divided the top ranks of Israel’s government, the Associated Press reported.

A few days ago, Mr. Kerry warned that the risk of boycotts against Israel would increase if the peace plan failed.

In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent out a blistering message: “Attempts to impose a boycott on the state of Israel are immoral and unjust. Moreover, they will not achieve their goal. First, they cause the Palestinians to adhere to their intransigent positions and thus push peace further away. Second, no pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the state of Israel, especially the security of Israel’s citizens.”

In an interview with Israel Radio, Yuval Steinitz, the nation’s minister of strategic affairs, called Mr. Kerry’s statements “hurtful,” “unfair,” and “intolerable,” and said Israel could not “be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head.”

The State Department then clarified Mr. Kerry’s remarks, saying that he was opposed to boycotts. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in widely published reports that Mr. Kerry’s mention of a boycott “was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed.”

White House national security adviser Susan Rice also took to Twitter to post a series of messages in support of Mr. Kerry, calling attacks against his diplomatic leadership “unfounded and unacceptable.”

But the rift seems to only deepen.

Now Israeli governing officials are turning against their own, lashing against public criticisms of Mr. Kerry, calling the verbal dress-downs inappropriate, AP reported.

The chief negotiator for Israel, Tzipi Livni, told Israel Radio on Wednesday that some of her fellow coalition members find recent comments against Mr. Kerry “shocking” and unhelpful.

Her remarks are widely regarded as illustrative of the divide that’s tearing at Israel’s coalition government over the issue of Palestinian settlements, AP reported.

Minister Naftali Bennett favors settlements and has threatened to abandon his coalition role if other Israeli leaders shut the door on Mr. Kerry’s proposed peace plan, which makes room for Palestinians in contested lands.