The US Secretary of State was accused of supporting anti-Semitic interests yesterday after warning that Israel faced an economic boycott if it failed to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
John Kerry made the comment as he held talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Munich, where they promised to step up diplomacy on Tehran's nuclear programme.
Ministers in the Cabinet of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, accused Kerry of effectively endorsing anti-Semitic efforts to impose sanctions on the country.
"The risks are very high for Israel," Kerry told the conference. "People are talking about boycotts. That will intensify in the case of failure.
"Do they want a failure that then begs whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community?"
The remarks were made against a backdrop of new European Union regulations barring deals with Israeli businesses based in West Bank settlements, but they provoked claims that he was threatening Israel in peace talks with the Palestinians.
Yuval Steinitz, Israel's Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister, said: "The things ... Kerry said are hurtful, they are unfair and they are intolerable.
"Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head when we are discussing the matters which are most critical to our national interests."
Naftali Bennett, the Industry Minister and head of the far-right Jewish Home Party, said: "We expect of our friends in the world to stand by our side against the attempts to impose an anti-Semitic boycott on Israel and not to be their mouthpiece."
Adi Mintz, an official in the Settlers' Council, accused Kerry of an anti-Semitic initiative. Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting that efforts to impose a boycott were immoral and unjust and doomed to fail.
The US State Department denied that Kerry, who is trying to draw up a framework agreement between Israel and Palestine, was backing an embargo.