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28 Jul, 2014 17:26

US threatens relations with Israel could worsen over Kerry criticism

US threatens relations with Israel could worsen over Kerry criticism

United States Secretary of State John Kerry has attracted the ire of Israel following his latest failed attempt to broker a ceasefire in Gaza, and American officials are warning that a wider rift in relations could come with serious repercussions.

On Friday last week, Sec. Kerry reportedly presented Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a draft proposal calling for a seven-day halt of fighting in Gaza, where more than 1,000 Palestinians — mostly civilians — have been killed in the last month; in that same span, the Israeli Defense Forces have suffered nearly 50 deaths but have continued an onslaught that the United National Security Council formally opposed early Monday.

The “Framework for Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Gaza” presented by Kerry failed to impress Netanyahu’s office, however, and Israel has since embarked on a campaign to condemn the secretary of state’s efforts by saying the US proposal did not do enough to stop Palestinian militants with the group Hamas from furthering its own, comparatively less successful campaign against the IDF.

According to Barak Ravid, a correspondent for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, the draft “shocked” local politicians because it “placed Israel and Hamas on the same level.” Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livini told JTA the proposal was “completely unacceptable” and “would strengthen extremists in the region,” and other officials reportedly considered agreeing to the terms a “surrender” to Hamas. The Times of Israel wrote that “Kerry’s mistakes are embarrassing,” and on Monday a new column in Haaretz accusied Kerry of “ruin[ing] everything” and warned “Very senior officials in Jerusalem described the proposal that Kerry put on the table as a 'strategic terrorist attack.’”

In response, the Associated Press reported Monday afternoon that US officials say their relationship with Israel could be put in jeopardy if criticism of the secretary continues to emerge from one of America’s most closely held allies. Unnamed officials, the AP reported, “said the personal attacks on Kerry crossed a line and were particularly disappointing at a time of active conflict.”

And even after both Hamas and Israel agreed to put a hold on fighting briefly over the weekend, experts fear a prolonged end is a faint possibility at best.

There is nothing to suggest that either side is particularly desperate for a cease-fire,” Robert Danin, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official, told the New York Times this week. “Neither side believes a cease-fire will be the end of the conflict, and they are looking at a truce as a way to position themselves for the next round of fighting.”

Following urging from the UN early Monday to halt the killings, Netanyahu fired back by accusing the international body of siding with Hamas, “a murderous terrorist group that attacks Israeli civilians.”

"It's a matter of their political will. They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian," responded UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, according to Reuters. "Why these leaders are making their people to be killed by others? It's not responsible, (it's) morally wrong."

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders are reportedly not too keen on the American statesman at the moment either. A senior Palestinian Authority official and an Israeli counterpart apparently mocked Kerry’s proposal during a weekend phone call, the Times of Israel reported, and an unnamed PA official told the Saudi-owned Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that Kerry’s plan would "destroy the Egyptian bid" for a ceasefire — the groundwork of which was used for the State Dept.’s own draft proposal.