Knesset members from across the political spectrum competed with each other Monday over who could insult US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to pressure Israel into a Gaza Strip cease-fire.
The MKs reacted to Obama calling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and insisting on an immediate cease-fire without preconditions. They also slammed Kerry for presenting a plan for a halt in hostilities that they saw as advancing the interests of Turkey, Qatar and Hamas at the expense of the US’s friends in the region.
“America harmed its allies in Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority by ignoring their demands and coming to the table with a plan that was not approved or even semi-approved by any of them,” said Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu). “Maybe it’s because they have a problem with the regime in Egypt and they thought that by going through Turkey and Qatar, they’d be seen as an honest broker. But instead, they lost the allies that they had and didn’t get any new ones. Kerry lost credibility in the eyes of everyone, and the president ended up undermining him.”
Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely said Israel must reject Obama’s cease-fire proposal, which she said only serves the interests of Hamas. She said the government of Israel must change the rules of the game in the Gaza Strip and defeat Hamas.
Her Likud colleague Danny Danon called upon Obama and his government to “cease firing at Israel.”
“We need to withstand the exorbitant pressure that is put on us and deal with the interests of Israel,” he said. “Would America cease fire on al-Qaida when it is being attacked? John Kerry is disconnected from reality and ignores the security concerns of Israel.”
MK Eli Yishai (Shas) said “The security of the citizens of Israel must come before our relations with the United States.” He said that although Israel owed much to America, “that obligation cannot come at the expense of Israel’s future.”
The criticism of America’s handling of the cease-fire proposal also came from the Left side of the political map.
“America has displayed a shameful lack of elementary understanding of how the Middle East works,” said Hatnua faction chairman Meir Sheetrit, who ran for president last month. “No matter what America says, it is forbidden to end the war as long as there is a threat of tunnels and rockets. I hope our friends in the US and Europe won’t get in the way by insisting on an immediate ceasefire. The free world must support Israel, not weaken it, and I hope our friends in the US give us their backing.”
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) said Obama’s demand to stop the fighting prevents Israel from maximizing its military and public diplomacy achievements. He said he doubted America’s ability to demilitarize Gaza and prevent future war there.
But there were also voices on the Left praising the US and attacking Netanyahu and his government.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On called on Netanyahu to adopt Obama’s cease-fire initiative and his associates to stop bad-mouthing Kerry. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Netanyahu’s spat with Obama had harmed Israel
“The conflict between Israel and the United States has revealed a longstanding failure to get along by the governments of Netanyahu and Obama,” Herzog said. “It is Israel that gets hurt by this failure. I hope the public realizes that because of this, our credit internationally is limited.”
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