Israeli politicians from the right and left are fuming at President Barack Obama following a late-night phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for an “unconditional” humanitarian cease-fire, likening Obama to “background noise” and one Israeli lawmaker calling for a “cease-fire from Washington.”
The new criticism came one day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was skewered by top Israeli media personalities after presenting a cease-fire proposal viewed in Israel as heavily tilting toward Hamas. One reporter compared Kerry's lack of understanding of the Middle East to an "alien who just disembarked his spaceship," while another cast him as a “blithering fool,” “dangerous,” and “duplicitous” in a column titled "John Kerry: The Betrayal."
In their Sunday night telephone call, Obama “underscored the United States’ strong condemnation of Hamas’ rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself” and said that “ultimately” a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should disarm terrorist groups and demilitarize Gaza, the White House said in a statement.
However, the part of the call that ruffled Israeli feathers was this: “Building on Secretary Kerry’s efforts, the president made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”
An Israeli soldier gestures from his Merkava tank as it rolls along the border between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, July 28, 2014. (David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images)
Discussions on Israeli radio stations Monday morning reflected a growing annoyance with the Obama administration for castigating Israel over Palestinian civilian casualties, while Hamas has continued exploiting civilians behind which it hides its military assets.
“The president also reiterated the United States’ serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza,” the White House said of Obama’s call with Netanyahu.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel posted on Twitter: "Obama, leave us alone. Let us take care of ourselves and [you] take care of Syria. Prime Minister, proceed and don’t let the background noise interfere."
"We need a cease-fire from Obama," Knesset Member Danny Danon of Netanyahu’s Likud Party said.
Israel Army Radio reported that Netanyahu’s ministers were given a directive not to speak with the media in order not to exacerbate the high tensions between Jerusalem and Washington, but that didn’t stop the lower-ranking politicians from piping in.
Left-wing Labor Party politician Nachman Shai told Israel's Channel 10 that Obama “stopped Israel with his action. He didn’t think far enough ahead.”
Shai also told Ynet that “the United States imposed a cease-fire upon us too early.” However, he added that Israel cannot say “no” to the U.S.
Ze’ev Elkin, who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was quoted in the Times of Israel saying, “When we once listened to the Americans and allowed Hamas to participate in elections, Hamas took over Gaza and we received a terrorist entity. Hamas is a terrorist organization just like Al Qaeda, so there is no reason to talk about negotiations.”
Perhaps the most vociferous complaint about Obama came from Danny Dayan who heads the Council of Judea and Samaria. He called requests for an immediate cease-fire “a perversion of morality and diplomacy.”
Israelis “are fighting for their homes. No matter what we do the enemy will never be satisfied,” he said.
“When they leave office soon, we will all breathe a sigh of relief, quiet but quite audible,” he said according to Israel’s Arutz Sheva. “It will take a long time to repair the damage caused by Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry.”
The sweeping criticism of Kerry prompted an unnamed U.S. official to hold a conference call with Israeli reporters to explain Kerry’s diplomatic moves.
“U.S. official in conference call with Israeli reporters: Criticism against Kerry extremely offensive. Mainly charges he betrayed Israel,” wrote diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid of the left-wing Haaretz newspaper, who penned the comparison to a space alien.
Fighting continued Monday, though with far less intensity than over the past three weeks. Israeli media quoted Israeli officials who said the Israel Defense Forces would hold its fire, though the government was unwilling to declare an open-ended cease-fire so as not to be viewed as caving to Hamas whims following a Hamas call for a cease-fire Sunday and to allow IDF troops to continue dismantling attack tunnels and strike rocket launchers.
To now, Hamas has violated nearly every cease-fire to which it has committed.
The Times of Israel quoted unnamed IDF officials who said that they had found most of Hamas’ 30 tunnels but needed more time to look for more and to demolish them.
An Israeli newspaper reported that Hamas planned to launch a massive terrorist attack on Israel on the Jewish high holiday of Rosh Hashanah Sept. 24, sending 200 terrorists through each of its estimated 30 tunnels into bordering Israeli communities and planning to kill and kidnap as many Israelis as they could.
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