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Published: Thursday February 6, 2014 MYT 8:55:02 AM
Updated: Thursday February 6, 2014 MYT 8:56:09 AM

Kerry plays down criticism from Israeli officials, citizens

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday brushed off Israeli criticism of his Middle East peace efforts, saying he has been "attacked" with bullets in the past and would not be intimidated by words.

On Sunday, Israeli's minister for strategic affairs accused Kerry of holding a gun to Israel's head by speaking of "an increasing de-legitimization" campaign against Israel. In January, Israel's defence minister was quoted scorning his quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace as "messianic" and obsessive.

A parody video, reported by Israeli media to be the work of a pro-settler group, ridicules Kerry and shows an actor portraying him describing Jerusalem as "holy to all religions: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Klingons and Hobbits."

Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper, Kerry appeared to allude to his military service during the Vietnam War as he played down the criticism.

"I've been, quote, 'attacked' before by people using real bullets, not words. And I am not going to be intimidated," Kerry told CNN according to a transcript released by the broadcaster.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the criticism of Kerry 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."

The major issues in the conflict include borders, security, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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