U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been criticized in Israel in recent days over his threats of a boycott, appears to have found an ally in Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
The Globes financial newspaper reported on Thursday that Kerry, who met with Israeli MKs attending an international parliamentary conference in Washington, praised Lapid for his “brave” stance regarding the peace process with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Kerry made the comments to MK Ofer Shelah of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. He reportedly said, "I heard that Finance Minister Yair Lapid is saying courageous things about the peace process. That voice should be heard in Israel."
Shelah told Globes that he had assured Kerry that Yesh Atid is the largest political body in Israel that supports the peace process. He added that he was under the impression that Kerry is well aware of Lapid’s views on the peace process.
He added that Yesh Atid has made it clear to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that as long as he will continue to promote the peace process, the party will support him.
Lapid has expressed support for Kerry’s peace plan and has brushed aside security concerns that have been expressed by other Israeli officials.
Last week, in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, Lapid declared that if the peace talks with the PA fail, Israel’s economy will be hurt, thus dismissing recent comments by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett who said that a Palestinian state will crush the Israeli economy.
He previously said that Kerry’s plan would allow Israel to get a “fair divorce from the Palestinians.”
Over the past week, several Israeli cabinet ministers responded to Kerry’s boycott threats which were made at the Security Conference in Munich, including Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, who made clear that “a country has yet to be born that will give up its land because of economic threats, and we won't either. Only security will bring financial stability, not a terror state next to the Ben Gurion Airport."
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon shot down the idea that Israel might buckle under the pressure being exerted by Kerry.
“We want to negotiate,” he explained, “but we will not do it under the pressure coming from Secretary of State Kerry.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to Kerry’s threat and said, "Attempts to impose a boycott on the State of Israel are immoral and unjust.” Later, however, he instructed his ministers not to attack Kerry personally.
On Wednesday, Kerry played down the Israeli criticism, telling CNN, “I’ve been, attacked before by people using real bullets, not words, and I am not going to be intimidated.”
President Barack Obama backed Kerry’s peace efforts on Thursday, saying at an interfaith breakfast in Washington, “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.”