Rage in Jerusalem: 'Reject Obama's cease-fire demands'

Author(s):  Shlomo Cesana, Yoni Hirsch, Daniel Siryoti, Mati Tuchfeld and Israel Hayom Staff
Source:  Israel Hayom.     Article date: July 28th, 2014

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Saturday
(Photo credit: Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire
(Photo credit: Reuters)

Israeli officials were outraged on Monday after U.S. President Barack Obama urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire” in the Gaza Strip.

“Obama is stopping Israel just when we have Hamas against the wall,” a senior official told an Israeli news media outlet.

Israel's ministers and MKs also voiced their extreme displeasure with the American pressure, with Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel directing his angry comments directly at the American president, saying, “Leave us alone; go focus on Syria.”

In an interview with Army Radio, Ariel said that Israel's military offensive in Gaza should have been more aggressive.

“It was obvious that international pressure would mount eventually,” Ariel said. “We should have acted faster, harder and with more determination. The rocket threat needs to be tackled. The tunnel threat is being addressed, but it is not enough.”

Likud deputy minister Tzipi Hotovely also criticized the American demand, saying, “Israel needs to reject Obama's call. The American proposal serves only the interests of Hamas. For the first time in years there is an overwhelming majority of Israelis who support the continuation of the operation. The Israeli government needs to change the rules of the game in Gaza and defeat Hamas.”

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Zeev Elkin said that “the fact that Hamas is still shooting means that it is not afraid. Hamas has not reached a true breaking point. We cannot allow Hamas to leave this confrontation with victories.”

In his conversation with Netanyahu on Sunday, Obama urged 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 a statement about the phone call, the White House said, “The president stressed the U.S. view 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, Obama “underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel’s security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza's humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable cease-fire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza's long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority.”

Obama also reaffirmed U.S. support for the Egyptian cease-fire initiative, giving the impression he was trying to correct the impression created by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's conduct. There has been sharp criticism of Kerry both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Kerry's cease-fire effort last week.

In Ramallah, Palestinian Authority officials are furious that Kerry presented the cease-fire conditions of Hamas, Qatar and Turkey as an American proposal. The Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper quoted senior Palestinian Authority officials as saying, “Kerry tried to bypass Abbas and sabotage the cease-fire initiative formulated by the Egyptians, which was accepted both by the Palestinian Authority and by Israel. The U.S. secretary of state repeatedly demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of diplomatic processes in the Middle East. Kerry formulated an alternative outline to appease Qatar and Turkey and did not consult at all with the relevant officials in Cairo, Ramallah and Israel.”

In light of Kerry's behavior, a senior American official briefed Israeli journalists on Sunday night, saying, “All parties understand and agree that Egyptian leadership is necessary. This is why Secretary of State Kerry held meetings in Cairo. Egypt must be involved in finding a long-term solution.”

The official said that Kerry's talks with Qatar and Turkey were meant to help mediate with Hamas.

“The attacks on Kerry, as if he betrayed the partnership with Israel, were particularly offensive,” the official said. According to the official, Kerry's efforts were focused on reaching a seven-day cease-fire. The official noted that the document presented as an American proposal was based on Egyptian text from a week before. He said the document contained no explicit mention of tunnels or the demilitarization of Gaza, because these issues were not included in the document on which the November 2012 cease-fire (which brought Operation Pillar of Defense to an end) was based.

“The demilitarization of Gaza is a goal that the U.S. supports and it will certainly be part of the negotiations,” the official said.

Late Sunday night, the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet — consisting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett — convened to discuss the future of Operation Protective Edge. Lieberman, Aharonovitch and Bennett oppose a cease-fire, and Lieberman and Bennett have called for an expansion of the operation.

On Sunday, Bennett wrote on his Facebook page, “Now is the time to decide. The goal: to make the Gaza Strip like Judea and Samaria — without missiles, without tunnels. The southern front with Gaza can be finished once and for all. We can prove to our enemies, our neighbors, to the world and to ourselves, that we can overcome Islamic terrorism. For the first time in years, it's within reach.”

Netanyahu, Ya'alon, Lapid and Livni believe that once the IDF destroys the tunnels under the Gaza border, Israel could seek a cease-fire that would include a significant diplomatic achievement on the demilitarization of Gaza.

In a series of interviews with international media outlets on Sunday, Netanyahu said the IDF would keep up its anti-tunnel activities. Operation Protective Edge would continue, Netanyahu said, until Israel reaches its goal of achieving a prolonged period of quiet for its citizens.

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