The NY Times – In Israel, Kerry Sees ‘Work to Do’ to Get Deal on Cease-Fire

Just as Israel was making progress in her valiant attempt to rid herself of the dangerous pest called Hamas in the Gaza Strip, America steps in to attempt to call the operation to a halt prematurely. All in the name of “Peace and Safety”, of course.

The Toll in Gaza and Israel, Day by Day

The daily tally of rocket attacks, airstrikes and deaths in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Mr. Ban said that there was an urgent need to make headway and that he and Mr. Kerry were joining forces on the issue.

Achieving a cease-fire, however, will be a formidable task, and there was no sense that Mr. Kerry was near a breakthrough.

The aims of his visit seemed to be to get a better sense of the Israelis’ bottom line, to support the United Nations effort and to enhance the stature of Mr. Abbas, whose influence among Palestinians is being eclipsed by that of Hamas.

Mr. Abbas, who had last week backed an Egyptian proposal for an immediate cease-fire followed by talks on specific terms, early Wednesday appeared to have aligned himself more with Hamas, whose leaders have said they will not halt the hostilities until several demands are met.

Those include opening crossings into Egypt and Israel, easing restrictions by Israel on farming, fishing, imports and exports, and releasing prisoners who were recently rearrested by Israel after having been freed in a 2011 exchange for a soldier Hamas held captive for five years.

“The demands of Gaza to end the aggression and lift the blockade are the demands of the entire Palestinian people,” said a statement read on Palestinian television by Yasser Abed Rabbo of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.

Mr. Kerry’s plane touched down at Ben-Gurion International Airport, just a day after the Federal Aviation Administration instructed American carriers to suspend flights to Israel for 24 hours, citing a rocket that had damaged a house near the airport in Tel Aviv. The landing was uneventful, and there were no missile attacks or air raid sirens during Mr. Kerry’s first few hours in Israel.

European airlines, including Air France, said they would continue to monitor the situation before deciding whether to divert the Tel Aviv flights they had canceled to the southern airport, Ovda, about 30 miles north of the resort city of Eilat. A spokesman for Lufthansa said its flights to Tel Aviv remained canceled Wednesday. British Airways’ service to Ben-Gurion was unaffected.

Ben-Gurion airport is the main international gateway to Israel, and the F.A.A.’s decision prompted complaints from Israeli officials that it amounted to a reward to Hamas for its missile attacks.

“The real answer is not to stop flights but to stop the rockets,” President Shimon Peres of Israel said. “If airlines will submit to terror then they invite more rocket fire and a greater danger not just here, but across the world.”

Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, flew to Ben-Gurion on the Israeli carrier El Al in a show of solidarity. He usually flies by private jet.

“Ben Gurion is the best-protected airport in the world,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement. “The U.S. flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately.”

Mr. Netanyahu spoke with Mr. Kerry on Tuesday night to ask for his help in getting the suspension lifted. Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, issued a statement later, saying that the F.A.A. instruction had been given to protect American carriers and citizens, and would be reviewed within 24 hours.

Israel agreed last week to Egypt’s proposal for a cease-fire but soon resumed its airstrikes, and eventually sent troops into Gaza, after Hamas continued to fire rockets and sent militants to carry out attacks in Israel using tunnels dug from Gaza.

While the Obama administration has insisted that Israel has the right to defend itself, it has also sought to persuade Mr. Netanyahu’s government to limit its ground attacks to sealing the Hamas tunnels.

In discussing his decision to send Mr. Kerry to the region to seek a cease-fire, President Obama expressed concern on Monday about the rising Palestinian and Israeli death tolls and asserted that the Israeli military had already done “significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.”

But as Israel’s military losses have mounted and Hamas has continued its rocket attacks, Israeli officials may not agree with that assessment.

There is also no indication as yet that Hamas is prepared to accept a cease-fire. On Tuesday, Mr. Kerry said that the United States was prepared to address the reconstruction of Gaza and the political demands of the Palestinians living there, but that a cease-fire first needed to be concluded.

“Hamas has a fundamental choice to make, and it is a choice that will have a profound impact for the people of Gaza,” Mr. Kerry said. “And the Egyptians have provided a framework and a forum for them to be able to come to the table to have a serious discussion together with other factions of the Palestinians.”

Mr. Kerry flew here from Cairo, where he has been holding intensive talks. On Tuesday, he conferred with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and with the country’s foreign minister and intelligence chief. He has also made a flurry of calls in recent days to his counterparts in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

Mr. Kerry said Egypt’s truce proposal had provided the “framework” for the continuing discussions on how to arrange a cease-fire.


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