White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer sought to downplay tensions between their respective governments on Monday after the Israeli press reported that senior aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were sharply dismissive of American efforts to quell the rising violence in Gaza.
At issue were Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to secure an unconditional cease-fire agreement between Jerusalem and Hamas, which was widely seen in Israel as deeply unfavorable to the Jewish state. "Very senior officials in Jerusalem described the proposal that Kerry put on the table as a ‘strategic terrorist attack,’" wrote columnist Ari Shavit in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.
Dermer, who began his term in Washington in September, said those officials didn’t speak for Netanyahu.
"I speak directly for my prime minister here. The criticism of Secretary Kerry for his good-faith efforts to advance a sustainable cease-fire is unwarranted," Dermer said at an event hosted by the National Leadership Assembly for Israel. "There is broad understanding between Israel and the United States about the principles for a sustainable cease-fire."
Speaking at the same event, Rice sought to underscore the Obama administration’s commitment to Israeli security and its right to defend itself against rocket fire from Hamas.
"I must tell you, we’ve been dismayed by some press reports in Israel mischaracterizing [Kerry’s] efforts last week to achieve a cease-fire," said Rice. "The reality is that John Kerry on behalf of the United States has been working every step of the way with Israel in support of our shared interests."
In recent days, President Barack Obama and Kerry have been pushing Israel to accept an unconditional humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza as the administration grows increasingly alarmed by the rising number of Palestinian civilian casualties. Efforts to secure a lasting cease-fire have faltered, however, as Israel seeks to retain the right to destroy tunnels connecting Gaza to Israel used by Hamas to mount attacks — a concession Hamas opposes.
"We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished," Netanyahu said in a televised speech to the nation on Monday. "We need to be prepared for a protracted campaign."
At the daily briefing on Monday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she was "surprised" and "obviously disappointed" that confidential details of Kerry’s desired cease-fire agreement were leaked to the press. "It’s simply not the way that partners and allies treat each other," Psaki said.
She rejected the notion that Kerry had settled on a formal deal and disputed the secretary’s preferred terms as described by Israeli journalists. "There was never a formal U.S. proposal presented," she said.
Psaki maintained that the terms sought by Kerry were not radically different from the terms of a cease-fire proposed by the Egyptian government 10 days ago that Israel accepted. "The main difference" between the two agreements, Psaki said, "was there was additional language on humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians — something that the Israelis have historically supported."
Yochi Dreazen is a Managing Editor for News at Foreign Policy. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security. His book about military suicide was published by Random House's Crown division in 2014.
Prior to joining Foreign Policy, Dreazen was a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the senior national security correspondent for National Journal. He began his career at the Wall Street Journal and spent 11 years at the newspaper, most recently as its military correspondent. He was born in Chicago, and later attended the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he edited the award-winning daily campus newspaper and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with degrees in History and English. He was hired by the Wall Street Journal immediately after graduation. Dreazen arrived in Iraq in April 2003 with the Fourth Infantry Division, and spent the next two years living in Baghdad as the Wall Street Journal's main Iraq correspondent.
Dreazen has made more than 12 lengthy trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and has spent a total of nearly four years on the ground in the two countries, mostly doing front-line combat embeds. He has reported from more than 20 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, Israel, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, Dreazen received the Military Reporters & Editors association’s top award for domestic military reporting in a large publication for a series of articles about military suicide and the psychological traumas impacting veterans of the two long wars. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Smithsonian, Tablet and the New Republic and he appears regularly on TV and radio programs such as NPR's Diane Rehm Show and PBS' Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Dreazen gives frequent lectures about journalism, the wars and current events to both civilian and military audiences.
Dreazen lives in Washington with his wife, Annie Rosenzweig Dreazen, and their beloved Golden Retriever, Charlie.| Report |
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| The Cable |