Obama speaks with Netanyahu, offering to broker ceasefire with Hamas
US President reaffirms Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks; Congress prepares resolution supporting Israel, condemning Hamas “unprovoked” actions; State Department points finger at Hamas as perpetrator of crisis.
VIENNA – The United States is prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, US President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu by phone today.
In the call, Obama “reiterated the United States’ strong condemnation of continuing rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks,” the White House said in a readout of the conversation.
But Netanyahu has ruled out a ceasefire with Hamas in the short-term. On the contrary, the Israeli leader has vowed a series of additional stages to Operation Protective Edge– his government’s response to continued rocket fire on Israeli towns and cities, after Hamas, a terrorist organization, stockpiled tens of thousands of rockets in the coastal territory over the last several years.
A ceasefire is “not even on the agenda,” Netanyahu told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, just hours before his call with the US leader.
The president also expressed concern, the press secretary’s office continued, “about the risk of further escalation and emphasized the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians and restore calm.”
The two discussed the impetus for the crisis: the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, one of whom was also an American citizen. They also discussed a revenge attack in East Jerusalem by extremist Israelis against an innocent Arab teenager, which compounded the crisis.
Obama “acknowledged,” the White House added, “Israel’s efforts to resolve this case.”
“I would remind you who is at fault here, and that is Hamas,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday, facing a series of accusatory questions from a Palestinian journalist for al-Quds TV in Washington.
Israeli military activities– targeting infrastructure and known terrorist operatives, taking practiced precautions to forewarn Palestinian civilians in advance of an air strike– differ fundamentally from Hamas tactics, Psaki continued: “indiscriminately” firing projectiles, without precision, in the general direction of populated civilian areas.
Leadership in Congress from both parties joined the administration’s public support for Israel’s continued
operation in Gaza on Thursday, with all parties urging caution while reinforcing that Israel’s military actions, thus far, fall within the country’s right to defend itself against Hamas terrorism.
Proposing official support, some members of Congress asserted that Hamas’ actions constitute “unprovoked” terrorism, and not a right of Palestinians to defend themselves.