Israeli government ministers who on Friday unanimously rejected US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Gaza ceasefire proposal said a day later that the entire affair had clearly demonstrated either the incompetence or the anti-Israel bias of America’s top diplomat.
“Kerry took the terms put forth by [Hamas leader Khaled] Mashal and then presented them as an American [ceasefire] proposal,” one Israeli government official was quoted as saying by Israel Hayom.
According to some of the details of Kerry’s plan that were leaked to the Israeli press, the Americans wanted an immediate halt to all hostilities in Gaza, followed by negotiations between Israel and Hamas in Cairo. On the table would be vastly increased funding for Gaza’s Hamas regime and an opening of the border between Israel and the volatile coastal enclave.
Kerry’s proposal apparently made no mention of the need to eliminate Hamas’ ability to militarily threaten the Jewish state.
As Ha’aretz correspondent Barak Ravid, one of Israel’s premier left-wing reporters, put it:
“The document recognized Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip… [and it] placed Israel and Hamas on the same level, as if the first is not a primary US ally and as if the second isn’t a terror group which overtook part of the Palestinian Authority in a military coup and fired thousands of rockets at Israel.”
Ravid, like Israel’s government ministers, was forced to conclude that “if Kerry did anything…it was to thwart the possibility of reaching a cease-fire in Gaza. …the American secretary of state will be responsible for every additional drop of blood that is spilled.”
What really irked Israel was that an acceptable ceasefire had already been tabled by Egypt, and Kerry had initially backed that initiative and signaled that his proposal would be based on it.
What Kerry ultimately put forward after consulting with Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey was a complete departure from the Egyptian proposal and a “prize for terror,” according to Israeli officials.
When the Israeli cabinet met again on Saturday to discuss further action in Gaza, there were reportedly few kind words for Kerry. According to Channel 2, various ministers described the US secretary of state as “negligent,” “lacking the ability to understand” what is happening on the ground, and “incapable of handling the most basic matters.”
As Israel draws ever closer to Arab neighbors who have a shared interest in seeing Hamas and similar groups defeated, the Obama Administration’s handling of the situation is likely to further drive a wedge between Jerusalem and Washington.