Kerry Leaves Israel Without Breakthrough in Gaza Cease-fire Talks

Senior Israeli officials say ground not yet ripe for a truce; U.S. deputy national security adviser expresses hope cease-fire would ensure Hamas' demilitarization.

Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel on Wednesday evening after a quick visit aimed at advancing a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, but after meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there was no sign of a breakthrough that might enable an end to the war in the near future.

Senior officials in Kerry’s entourage said after his meetings in Israel that a cease-fire is not around the corner. “We are not there yet,” they said. One of the U.S. officials added that Kerry's focus now is to get to a cease-fire as quick as possible and find a formula that both sides can agree to.

On Tuesday, Kerry held marathon talks with an Egyptian delegation that traveled to Ben-Gurion airport under a cover of secrecy. Kerry then immediately left for Jerusalem to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. During their meeting, Kerry attempted to display optimism, saying that some progress had been made toward a cease-fire, but there was still work to be done.

After his meeting with the UN secretary general, Kerry left for Ramallah and met with President Abbas for several hours. After their meeting, Kerry stated yet again that progress had been made toward a cease-fire over the past 24 hours.

Kerry met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv in the evening. The two spoke for roughly two hours but refrained from making statements to the press and appeared chilly toward one another during a photo opportunity. After their meeting, Kerry took off for Cairo, to hold another meeting with Egyptian leaders.

After the Kerry-Netanyahu meeting, the security cabinet convened in Tel Aviv to discuss a possible expansion of the ground operation in the Gaza Strip. Senior Israeli officials stated that at this point, it seems that the situation is not yet ripe for a cease-fire, especially with the conditions set by Hamas.

U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken said during a radio interview that the Obama administration is looking for a way to ensure that Hamas will not be able to threaten Israel with rockets. “One of the results, one would hope, of a cease-fire would be some form of demilitarization, so that again, this doesn’t continue, doesn’t repeat itself,” Blinken said.

The cabinet is set to hold an emergency session in the Knesset on Thursday to deliberate on the operation Gaza. Netanyahu is to meet with Britain’s new foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, prior to the cabinet meeting. The prime minister is expected to open the meeting with a statement on the progress made by the Israel Defense Forces in its operation in Gaza.