WASHINGTON : US Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday hit back at dismissive comments made by top Israeli officials regarding his attempts to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“I’m not going to be intimidated and back down,” Kerry said in an interview to CNN. “I’ve been attacked before by people using real bullets, not words... No one should distort what we are saying because they are opposed to the peace process.” Kerry’s reference to bullets apparently alluded to his military service in the Vietnam war.
Kerry was responding to a barrage of attacks issued by top Israeli officials - among them Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who have in recent days painted his Mideast mission as messianic and obsessive.
“Unfortunately, there are some people in Israel and in Palestine […] who don’t support the peace process. There are specifically some people that don’t support two states. There are some people who don’t want any restraint on settlements whatsoever. What is important is to look at the positive side of this which is that the majority of people in Israel and Palestine believe in peace.”
Kerry reiterated his support of Israel, saying Israelis should know that the US “will always stand by Israel’s security needs.”
Responding to questions about Israeli attacks on Kerry, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said criticism of the Secretary of State was aimed at the possibility of a peace agreement, the outlines of which the United
States hopes to achieve by April.
“The words aren’t an attack on him. They’re actually an attack on the peace process itself,” she said. “His view is that some of this is a sign that the heat is on and we’re getting down to the difficult issues.”  
Meanwhile, The State Department condemned Israel’s decision to build more than 558 new homes in Jewish settlements in occupied east Jerusalem .
“Our position on Jerusalem is clear. We oppose any unilateral actions by
either party that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem ,” Psaki, the department’s spokesperson, said at the daily press briefing in Washington on Wednesday.
“We’ve called on both sides to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations.”
The decision to build new housing units amid contentious ongoing peace negotiations prompted a negative response from the Palestinians, according to press reports.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called the moves a “deliberate provocation of the Palestinians to drive them to leave the negotiations.”
“Israel is not only capable of sabotaging the talks, but it is flagrantly
destroying the chances of peace and stability throughout the region,”
Ashrawi said in a statement.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has been the subject of recent criticism from Israeli officials in the last week, which has led to friction between Israel and the US as Kerry attempts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.