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Israel's fury at John Kerry

Israeli commentators are furious at John Kerry, whose ceasefire proposal was rejected by Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday
John Kerry with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Paris on Saturday (AFP)

Israeli commentators are spitting with rage at John Kerry. A spate of opinion pieces in Israel’s leading newspapers on Sunday poured scorn on the US Secretary of State’s failed ceasefire proposal.

The proposal, rejected by Israel, was exclusively revealed by Middle East Eye in English on Saturday and sets out a framework for a ceasefire to end hostilities between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip.

Kerry's initiative recommended a seven day “humanitarian ceasefire” and included provisions for the Palestinian factions and Israel to negotiate over ending the punishing eight-year long siege of Gaza.

It stipulated that during the ceasefire all sides would “convene within 48 hours to negotiate resolution of all issues necessary to achieve a sustainable ceasefire…including arrangements to secure the opening of border and non-border crossings, allow the entry of goods and people and ensure the social and economic livelihood of the Palestinian people living in Gaza”.

There was no mention of conditions relating to disarmament of Hamas or destruction of tunnels in Gaza, both key concerns for Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed the proposal and stated on American television during an interview on Sunday that the “only offer on the table is the Egyptian one”.

Hamas rejected the Egyptian brokered initiative, saying they were not consulted, and criticised it for not addressing their core need of negotiating an end to the siege of Gaza.

Secretary of State Kerry has shuttled around the region in the past few days, in an urgent bid to find a ceasefire to end fighting that has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza.

On Saturday he travelled to Paris where he met with foreign ministers from Britain, Germany, Italy, Qatar and Turkey, as well as a representative from the EU.

The shift toward more strongly bringing in Turkish and Qatari representatives appears to show an increased willingness to include Hamas’s concerns in negotiating a ceasefire. Hamas has previously said it will not accept Egypt acting as an interlocutor and have charged Turkey and Qatar as negotiating on their behalf.

Kerry’s actions in attempting to consult all sides on a potential deal has brought ire from Israel’s media, who say he is presenting Hamas “as equal to Israel”. Newspapers have also cast aspersions over his “judgment and perception of regional events”, all of which culminated in a series of scathing editorials on Sunday.

In Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid warned of dangerous regional consequences for Kerry’s actions.

“The secretary of state's draft empowered the most radical and problematic elements in the region – Qatar, Turkey, and Hamas,” he wrote, adding that it “was a slap on the face to the rapidly forming camp of Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who have many shared interests.”

“What Kerry's draft spells for the internal Palestinian political arena is even direr: It crowns Hamas and issues Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a death warrant,” he added.

Ravid’s piece raised a thorny issue for regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia: that of cooperation and shared interests with Israel. The kingdom is sensitive to any suggestion that they could be working with Israel, responding angrily to a report by MEE’s editor David Hearst on Friday that revealed a triumvirate intelligence alliance between Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Elsewhere, the Times of Israel went even further in its criticism of Kerry, going so far as to make personal insults against America’s top diplomat.  

In an article titled “John Kerry: The betrayal”, David Horovitz wrote: “Leaked comments from unnamed senior government sources to Army Radio, Channel 2 and other Hebrew outlets have described the secretary as amateurish, incompetent, incapable of understanding the material he is dealing with – in short, a blithering fool.”

“But actually, it’s worse than that,” he added. “What emerges from Kerry’s self-initiated ceasefire mission…is that Jerusalem now regards him as duplicitous and dangerous.”

Israel’s fury stems from perceiving that Hamas are having their needs prioritised in the Kerry proposal. 

The Palestinian Authority (PA) are angry with Kerry too and believe they have been sidlined by his proposal. Neither the PA's nor Israel's representatives were present at the meetings in Paris on Saturday.

According to an unnamed Palestinian official who spoke to the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat: “Kerry tried…to destroy the Egyptian bid and the Palestinian [Authority’s] remarks on it.”

The official added that “Kerry was in fact trying to create an alternative framework to the Egyptian initiative and our understanding of it, in a way that placates the Qataris and the Turks.”

While a humanitarian ceasefire lasted 16 hours from Saturday morning to early on Sunday, the reality remains that there appears no end to Israel’s brutal assault on the Gaza strip in the coming hours or days.

Hamas proposed a 24 hour humanitarian ceasefire on Sunday, believed to be related to the advent of Eid, which will likely take place on Monday, and Israel have not publicly responded to the UN-brokered offer in a direct manner.