The Israeli government and left-wing driven media are fuming at Secretary of State John Kerry over his botched efforts at forging an Israel-Hamas cease-fire, with a prominent diplomatic reporter likening him to an alien who just descended to Earth from a spaceship.
Sources in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet speaking on background plastered the Israeli media over the weekend with their assessment that the Kerry proposal was a one-sided capitulation to the demands of Hamas, a group designated not only by Israel but by Kerry’s State Department as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
This photo was captured in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 before the Israeli government rejected Kerry’s cease-fire proposal, but the look on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s face was striking. (AP Photo/Pool)
Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent for the left-wing Haaretz newspaper, who has made a career of bashing Netanyahu in his coverage, has now penned among the most scathing descriptions of Kerry’s failed mission, denouncing the secretary of state over his lack of “judgment and perception of regional events” and accusing him of all but lying in his effort to paint a more rosy picture of his progress this weekend.
.@JohnKerry's attempts to downplay the fact Israel rejected his proposal are just pathetic— Barak Ravid (@Barak Ravid)1406315569.0
This, as the diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s top-rated television news show, Channel 2’s Udi Segal, quoted government ministers who called Kerry “negligent,” “lacking the ability to understand” the issues, and “incapable of handling the most basic matters,” the Times of Israel reported.
The Haaretz correspondent described Friday’s press conference with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Egyptian foreign minister as “one of Kerry's most embarrassing incidents since taking office. And there were quite a few in the last year and a half.”
He then skewered Kerry for denying that the Israeli security cabinet had unanimously rejected his draft proposal and for purporting that gaps between the sides were based on “terminology” rather than fundamental differences.
“Kerry, as is his wont, seemed and sounded as if he came from a parallel universe. He claimed to have never presented Israel with a formal offer for a cease-fire, slammed the Israeli media's ‘mischievous reports’ [on the Israeli rejection] and promised that Netanyahu's office will issue a clarification,” Ravid wrote.
From Ravid’s blog post at Haaretz:
It's not clear what Kerry was thinking when he presented this draft. It's unclear what he had in mind when he convened the Paris summit. It can only be seen as surreal. Along with foreign ministers from Europe's major nations Kerry greeted with regal honors Hamas' Qatari and Turkish patrons, ignoring what Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority might have had to say.
Kerry isn’t anti-Israeli; on the contrary, he's a true friend to Israel. But his conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events. It's as if he isn't the foreign minister of the world's most powerful nation, but an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast. […]
If Kerry did anything on Friday it was to thwart the possibility of reaching a cease-fire in Gaza. Instead of promoting a cease-fire, Kerry pushed it away. If this failed diplomatic attempt leads Israel to escalate its operation in Gaza, the American secretary of state will be one of those responsible for every additional drop of blood that is spilled.
It should be noted that representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority – with whom Israel has a long-standing security relationship - did not participate in the Paris meeting Saturday.
Channel 2 reported that Kerry’s draft proposal struck the Israeli ministers with “horror,” while Ravid wrote that Israeli ministers were “shocked,” because the proposal “was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier” and that “it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal,” Hamas’ political leader.
According to multiple Israeli media reports, including the Times of Israel, Kerry’s proposal “accepted Hamas’s demands for the opening of border crossings into Gaza — where Israel and Egypt fear the import of weaponry; the construction of a seaport; and the creation of a post-conflict funding channel for Hamas from Qatar and other countries.”
The Times of Israel further noted that Kerry’s cease-fire proposal did not allow the IDF to continue dismantling Hamas’ “terror tunnels,” even though they run well into Israeli territory and have been used to kill six Israeli soldiers in just the past week.
“The document placed Israel and Hamas on the same level, as if the first is not a primary U.S. 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 noted.
The departure from U.S. foreign policy was also noted by Middle East watchers on Twitter:
From Cairo readout,most odious part of ceasefire effort is how everyone seems to treat Hamas as legitimate combatant. http://t.co/lL6twSH3y6— Robert Satloff (@Robert Satloff)1406340635.0
John Kerry has become an ambassador for a group designated as terrorists by his own State Dept and has done so at the expense of a key ally.— Philip Klein (@Philip Klein)1406412264.0
Symbolism and optics were also noted by Haaretz’s Ravid, who criticized State Department-released “jovial and happy-go-lucky” photos of Kerry this weekend with the foreign ministers of Qatar – a key Hamas backer - and Turkey, which supports the group.
“Other photographs show Kerry carousing romantically with the Turkish foreign minister in the pastoral grounds of the U.S. ambassador's home in Paris, as if the Turkish official's prime minister didn't just say a few days ago that Israel is 10 times worse than Hitler,” Ravid observed.
Israel’s Army Radio quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official who said Kerry’s proposal was not “built on the Egyptian initiative,” as Kerry asserted, but favored Hamas’ demands as conveyed by Qatar. Israel last week accepted Egypt’s proposal, but Hamas rejected it.
The Times of Israel quoted an Army Radio report which further reflected the extent of suspicion Kerry has elicited in Israel:
The Army Radio report also highlighted that the US on Monday signed an $11 billion arms deal with Qatar, and noted that Qatar is championing Hamas’s demands in the ceasefire negotiations, and is also alleged by Israel to be financing Hamas’s rocket production, tunnel digging infrastructure, and other elements of its military infrastructure. The radio report also claimed that Ban Ki-moon “is flying around the region on a Qatari plane.”
To drive home how unusual the commentary was coming from Ravid, see this comment he tweeted, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname:
If you need an example for why @JohnKerry's handling of the Gaza ceasefire is so poor: he managed to turn me yesterday into a Bibi supporter— Barak Ravid (@Barak Ravid)1406374704.0
Kerry ruffled feathers in Israel last weekend when he was caught on a hot microphone before appearing on Fox News Sunday seemingly accusing Israel snidely of not doing enough to avoid civilian casualties.
“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said to an unidentified aide on the telephone.
In January, comments by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon calling Kerry “messianic” in his efforts to force an Israeli-Palestinian peace framework and “not in touch with reality” received wide media attention.
Read Ravid’s full blog post at Haaretz’s website at this link.