Reeling from President Obama’s Sunday call for an “immediate unconditional ceasefire” in its war against Hamas, a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government told Israeli Army Radio that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should “leave us alone already; go bother Syria.”
The official, Housing and Construction minister Urial Ariel, complained that White House pressure on Israel was “outrageous” and designed to “help Hamas.” Obama, he charged, is trying to prevent Israel from defeating a global terrorist menace at the very moment when Israel “has Hamas against the wall.”
“It was obvious that international pressure would mount eventually,” Ariel told Israel Radio. “Yes, we should have acted faster and more aggressively to address the rockets and tunnels, but we never thought it would be the Americans who would lead the pressure.”
Exasperation, even fury at Obama and Kerry’s treatment of the Jewish state is already at historic heights in Israel. If opinion polls measuring popular approval for Israel’s current operation against Hamas are accurate, Israelis are nearly unanimous in their support for the war; 87% of the normally fractious Israeli public supports Israel continuing its group operation against Hamas until that terror group’s capacity to threaten Israel is destroyed– while only 7% support Obama’s call for Israel to impose an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. For point of reference, 15% of Israelis are Muslim Arabs.
Like almost everyone else, Deputy Likud Leader Tzipi Hotovely rejected Kerry’s ceasefire plan outright, telling the daily Israel Hayom newspaper that “Incredibly, America now seems to be serving only the interests of Hamas.”
President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday, calling upon the Israeli leader to impose an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 cease-fire agreement.” In an apparent attempt to soften initial reports that President Obama was harsher and more demanding of Israel than he was on Hamas during his call with Netanyahu, the White House late Sunday issued a statement that said in part, “The President stressed that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.”
According to the White House statement, Obama also tried to correct the impression that American support for the dormant Egyptian ceasefire proposal had waned with the recent pro-Hamas proposals issued by Kerry.
Kerry has been bitterly criticized by many officials in Israel, Egypt, and throughout the Arab world. Even the Palestinian Authority is reportedly outraged at Kerry’s seeming adoption of Hamas’s negotiating positions.
Palestinian Authority officials were irate late week upon learning Kerry had adopted nearly all of Hamas’s positions in his most recent ceasefire proposal. Asharq Al-Awsat, a Palestinian daily published in Ramallah, quoted an unnamed but reportedly senior PA official as saying, “Kerry tried to sabotage the PA by ignoring the Egyptian cease fire plan that we [Palestinian Authority] and Israel had already both accepted.”
The Palestinian official went on to claim that the Kerry plan “repeatedly demonstrates a complete and fundamental misunderstanding of the Middle East.” “Kerry’s plan,” he said, was written to “appease Hamas and its allies, Qatar and Turkey.” He didn’t even have the “decency to inform relevant officials in Cairo, Ramallah or Israel.”
As outrage against Secretary Kerry quickly grew into a firestorm, senior American officials briefed Israeli journalists late Sunday trying to defend Kerry’s talks with Qatar and Turkey, which he claimed were only mean to help mediate with Hamas.
Using some of the same language as on other occasions when Kerry’s diplomatic interventions have either backfired or worsened matters, Secretary Kerry’s defenders claimed the criticism of him and his efforts was “offensive” and “insulting.”