JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday dismissed warnings by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel could be targeted by a growing boycott campaign if peace talks with the Palestinians fail.
Netanyahu tried to reassure Israelis, saying any boycott attempts are immoral, unjust and “will not achieve their goal,” while two government ministers accused Kerry of unfair pressure tactics and not standing by Israel.
Kerry’s comments and the aggrieved Israeli response led the main TV news shows Sunday, signaling a growing concern here that the world will use economic pressure to extract concessions.
A Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, launched in 2005, was long considered by Israel as a minor nuisance. However, recent warnings by Europe and by Israel’s own finance minister about potential damage from a widening boycott have raised the level of concern.
At the same time, a small but growing number of European businesses and pension funds cut ties with Israeli firms linked to settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, war-won lands the Palestinians want for a state. Over the weekend, Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, blacklisted Israel’s Bank Hapoalim because of links to settlement activity.
Kerry is expected to present a framework for a peace deal in coming weeks. Anticipating resistance from Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he has spelled out the risks if they say no to his plan.
Israel won’t be able to preserve its future as a democratic, majority-Jewish state and will endanger its prosperity, while the Palestinians will inadvertently embolden hardliners, Kerry warned last month in an apparent attempt to appeal directly to public opinion on both sides.
On Saturday, at a security conference in Germany, he sent a tougher message to the Israelis. “You see for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things,” he said.