The critiques of Kerry centered around ideas that U.S. officials
say were sent to Israeli officials, based on an Egyptian draft
ceasefire proposal, that would provide for an immediate end to
hostilities and talks 48 hours later between Israeli, Palestinian
and Egyptian officials in Cairo.
The confidential draft was leaked to the Israeli news media, which
interpreted the proposal as akin to a U.S. effort to get Israel to
halt a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas tunnels in Gaza
that militants have used to launch attacks against Israeli soldiers.
"John Kerry: The Betrayal," was the headline of an opinion piece in
the Times of Israel about Kerry's attempt to secure a ceasefire.
"Astoundingly, the secretary's intervention in the Hamas war
empowers the Gaza terrorist government bent on destroying Israel,"
"I must tell you: we’ve been dismayed by some press reports in
Israel mischaracterizing his efforts last week to achieve a
ceasefire," Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, told a
conference of national Jewish leaders. "The reality is that John
Kerry on behalf of the United States has been working every step of
the way with Israel."
The Israeli government has been suspicious of Kerry's motives,
particularly after he was caught on a Fox News open mic earlier this
month sarcastically describing Israel's offensive in Gaza as a "hell
of a pinpoint operation."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki rejected the criticism,
saying Kerry's reason for engaging in the ceasefire effort is to end
the rocket attacks against Israel from Hamas.
She said she would not assign motivations behind the leaks, but
added that "those who want to support a ceasefire should focus on
efforts to put it in place and not on efforts to criticize or attack
one of the very people who are playing a prominent role in getting
At the White House, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken
said the proposal that was criticized was not a U.S. proposal, but a
draft to elicit comment from the Israelis based on an original
"Virtually every element that unidentified sources complained about
was in the initial Egyptian proposal and agreed to by Israel 10 days
before," he said.
[to top of second column]
The criticism from Israel has strained U.S. relations with the
Jewish state at a crucial time as the death toll from
Israeli-Palestinian violence in Gaza has climbed past 1,000, most of
them civilians in Gaza.
The United States is Israel's strongest military and financial
backer, and successive U.S. presidents who have sought to mediate in
the Middle East are always careful to avoid criticism of Israeli
But in the current fighting, Washington has tried to straddle a line
between reassuring Israel it has a right to defend itself while also
trying to persuade the Israelis to adjust military tactics that are
leading to the high death toll.
Statements from the White House and the State Department reflect
growing concern from U.S. officials about the scale of civilian
casualties in Gaza, a death toll that White House national security
adviser Susan Rice told MSNBC is of "grave and deepening concern."
U.S. President Barack Obama held the latest in a series of phone
conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on
Sunday. The White House statement from that conversation said that
ultimately any lasting solution to the conflict must end "the
disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza."
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by David Storey, G
Crosse and Howard Goller)
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