WASHINGTON (AFP) - Amid a bitter spat between the United States (US) and Israel, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday bullets were worse than words and vowed he would not be "intimidated" in his dogged quest for peace.
The two countries have been at loggerheads after senior Israeli figures attacked the top US diplomat for weekend comments in which he warned that if the peace talks fail, Israel could face a growing threat of a boycott by the international community.
Israeli ministers said his comments at a security conference in Munich were "offensive" and accused him of trying to "amplify" the boycott threat.
But Mr Kerry hit back on Wednesday that his words had been distorted, saying he had merely commented on what other people were saying.
The decorated veteran of the Vietnam war told CNN that he has "been attacked before by people using real bullets, not words, and I am not going to be intimidated".
"I am not going to stand down with respect to President (Barack) Obama's commitment to try to find peace in the Middle East."
Mr Kerry has pushed the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table and is trying to hammer out a framework agreement to guide the next months in the talks, with an April deadline for the negotiations looming.
Details of the framework have been kept secret, but Mr Kerry's spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the verbal attacks were "a sign the heat is on" as they tackle some of the toughest issues dividing the two sides.
Mr Kerry was "not going to spend a lot of time worrying about words people are using against him", she told reporters.
"His greatest concern about this is the impact they have or they could have on the process. That the words aren't an attack on him, they're actually an attack on the peace process itself."
Mr Kerry told CNN: "Unfortunately there are some people in Israel and in Palestine and in the Arab world and around the world who don't support the peace process.
"There are specifically some people who don't support two states," he said, adding that however the majority of people wanted peace.