John Kerry invoked his Vietnam War service to push back against an Israeli cabinet member who criticized his recent comments on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
During a security conference in Munich last weekend, Kerry suggested that if his Israeli-Palestinian peace effort fails, there could be serious consequences for Israel.
“For Israel there is an increasing delegitimizing campaign that has been building up,” Kerry said, without condemning the effort. “People are very sensitive to it. There are talks of boycotts and other kinds of things.”
In response, Israel’s economy minister Naftali Bennett harshly criticized Kerry’s failure to speak out against the delegitimization campaign at the conference.
“We expect our friends around the world to stand beside us, against anti-Semitic boycott efforts targeting Israel, and not for them to be their trumpet,” he said in a statement.
CNN’s Jake Tapper presented Kerry with an opportunity to respond to Bennett and other Israeli critics during an interview Wednesday.
“My comments need to be properly represented, not distorted. I did not do anything except cite what other people are talking about as a problem,” Kerry said. “But I also have always opposed boycotts. I have 100 percent voting record in support of Israel for 29 years in the United States Senate. Unfortunately, there are some people in Israel and in Palestine and in the Arab World and around the world that don’t support the peace process.”
“Israel needs to understand we will always stand by its security needs,” he continued. “But no one should distort what we’re doing or saying because they’re opposed to the peace process or don’t like two states or whatever. And, you know, words — I have to tell you, my friend, I’ve been, quote, attacked before by people using real bullets, not words, and I am not going to be intimidated. I am not going to stand down with respect to President Obama’s commitment to trying to find peace in the Middle East.”
Kerry famously served in the Vietnam War. As for Bennett, he served in Israel’s elite special forces unit, Sayeret Matkal.