U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday expressed his appreciation towards his Secretary of State’s peace efforts in the Middle East.
Speaking at an interfaith breakfast in Washington, D.C., Obama said, “I want to take this opportunity to thank Secretary Kerry for his extraordinary passion and principled diplomacy that he’s brought to the cause of peace in the Middle East. Thank you, John.”
“As we support Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in direct talks, we’ve made clear that lasting peace will require freedom of worship and access to holy sites for all faiths,” he added.
The expression of support for Kerry’s efforts comes after the top diplomat was heavily criticized by Israeli officials in recent days, over his threats that Israel will be boycotted if peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) fail.
On Monday, Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice responded to the criticism and blasted Israel on Twitter.
“Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable. John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity rock solid,” Rice wrote, adding, “POTUS and Sec Kerry remain committed to negotiations that can secure Israeli and Palestinian futures.”
Her last tweet read, “U.S. Govt [sic] has been clear and consistent that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel.”
On Wednesday, Kerry’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki took Israel to task for criticizing his efforts to achieve peace.
“Any rhetoric that is inaccurate and critical as this is unhelpful. These kind of attacks are unacceptable. They not only distort his record but they distract from the key issues at hand,” she said.
“Peace isn’t a favor we’re doing for the Israelis and Palestinians, it’s something that the Israeli people and the Palestinian people want,” added Psaki.
Kerry himself responded to the criticism on Wednesday, telling CNN that he was unfazed by it because, as he said, “I’ve been, attacked before by people using real bullets, not words, and I am not going to be intimidated.”