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Kerry, Netanyahu Trade Barbs Over Boycott

February 3, 2014 By:
JTA
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have hit a rough patch in their relationship. Photo from Israeli Prime Minister's Office via Twitter.

Benjamin Netanyahu and John Kerry discussed the developing framework agreement in a telephone call hours after the Israeli prime minister accused the U.S. secretary of state of promoting a boycott in a speech.

The two leaders spoke on Feb. 2, Haaretz reported. The newspaper cited unnamed senior U.S. officials as saying the conversation dealt mostly with the framework agreement. The conversation came after Kerry met earlier the same day with Israeli Justice Minister and chief Israeli peace negotiator Tzipi Livni, and negotiator Isaac Molho.

Earlier on Feb. 2, Netanyahu, and other Israeli government officials, rapped John Kerry for warning that Israel would face more international boycotts if the peace process fails, during an address to the Munich Security Conference.

Netanyahu called boycotts “immoral and unjust.” He also said that boycotts push the peace process further away by causing the Palestinians “to adhere to their intransigent positions,” and that “no pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the State of Israel, especially the security of Israel’s citizens.”

The U.S. State Department responded to the criticism leveled at Kerry.

“Secretary Kerry has a proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel’s security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement. “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.”

Kerry is expected to introduce his framework agreement proposal to the mostly stalled U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the coming weeks.

Kerry's assertion that Israel faces an uphill battle on the public image front carried some weight as the largest bank in Denmark added Israel’s Bank Hapoalim to its list of excluded companies over its dealings in the West Bank.

Danske Bank cited its Israeli counterpart’s involvement in “construction activities in conflict with international humanitarian law,” according to the Danish bank’s website, in divesting last month.

In 2010, the bank also used  a reference to Israeli construction in the West Bank to exclude Africa Israel and Danya Cebus. The same year, Danske Bank also divested from the defense contractor Elbit, citing its alleged involvement in “supplying electronic equipment in conflict with human rights norms.”

The bank, Denmark’s largest according to its own publications, has a list of 33 excluded firms, four of which are Israeli.

Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson's SodaStream Super Bowl commercial continued to draw censure as longtime boycott advocate Roger Waters assailed the actress for her work with the Israeli manufacturer of home soda makers. He also lashed out at musician Neil Young for his planned performance in Israel.

In a Facebook post on Feb. 1, the former Pink Floyd frontman said he was making a public plea to Johansson and Young after writing to them privately in recent days.

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