President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly on Sunday evening to demand that Israel enact “an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities,” the White House said, adding support for the demilitarization of Gaza. Hamas immediately rejected the idea: “Those who try to take our weapons, we will take their life.”
Obama’s call for Israel to stop fighting comes as a ceasefire proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry that came remarkably close to Hamas’s main demands was rejected unanimously by the Israeli cabinet Friday, and a poll showed Sunday that nearly 9 of 10 Israelis want their military to keep up its attacks on Hamas’s rockets and tunnels. Obama did not offer to help demilitarize Gaza; he merely supported that as part of a “lasting solution.”
Israel, which has observed several unilateral ceasefires, had not yet responded officially to Obama’s request, but was reported to be considering a voluntary ceasefire during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, during which it would respond to Hamas attacks but would not initiate attacks on Hamas infrastructure. Hamas had rejected, then accepted, a 24-hour ceasefire which it then proceeded to violate by firing several rockets at Israel.
The Obama administration’s call for “unconditional ceasefire”–a pale contrast to the famous call by the Allies in World War II for the “unconditional surrender” of the Axis powers–will likely strain U.S.-Israel relations even further. The Obama administration has even been accused by the Palestinian Authority of undermining talks being brokered by Egypt in favor of “appeasing” Turkey and Qatar, which support Hamas in various ways.
Photo: Pete Souza/White House/July 25