U.S. to Israel on Kerry Criticism: 'Not the Way Allies Treat Each Other'

American official says White House convinced Netanyahu or advisers primed Israeli reporters to attack secretary of state's cease-fire diplomacy.

AFP

The U.S. administration on Monday continued its counterattack against the recent criticism in Israel of Secretary of State John Kerry's attempts to forge a cease-fire in the fighting with Hamas.

At the daily news briefing for foreign correspondents, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki blasted the criticism of Kerry voiced by senior Israeli officials.

"This is not the way partners and allies treat each other," Psaki said.

A senior U.S. official said the White House is convinced that the barrage of criticism of Kerry in the Israeli media was fueled by the Prime Minister's Office. Obama's circles believe it was Netanyahu or his advisers who primed Israeli journalists to criticize Kerry.

Israel has voiced extremely harsh criticism in Israel over the draft cease-fire proposal Kerry presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and which was rejected by the cabinet.

Cabinet ministers characterized the proposal as a "prize to terror," and claimed Kerry had completely adopted the positions taken by the Qatari and Turkish foreign ministers, who negotiated on Hamas' behalf. The ministers said Hamas' demands received far greater attention in the draft proposal than did Israel's.

Psaki said the administration is "disappointed and frustrated" that the draft Kerry submitted to Israel on Friday night was leaked to the Israeli media. It was published first by Haaretz on Sunday morning.

She said the draft that was leaked was a secret proposal that had been presented to Israel for discussion. She added that it was based on the Egyptian cease-fire plan that Israel had agreed to the week before.

Psaki noted that in their talks with Israeli government officials, Kerry and other senior U.S. officials did not hear the sort of criticism of Kerry's diplomacy that was reported in the Israeli media. She suggested that some of this criticism stems from the opposition to a cease-fire coming from some members of the Israeli government.

The White House also sprang to Kerry's defense. Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken hinted to reporters at a briefing that some of the criticism of Kerry was part of a disinformation campaign organized by certain elements in the Israeli government.

"All the leaks were misinformed or part of an effort to misinform," Blinken said.

The Prime Minister's Office has meanwhile sought since Friday to tone down the rhetoric regarding the dispute with Kerry, and has not attacked him publicly or in briefings with reporters.

Israel's ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, came to Kerry's defense during a meeting with American Jewish leaders in Washington.

Criticism of Kerry for his good faith efforts to achieve a cease-fire is unwarranted, Dermer said, prefacing his statement by saying, "I speak directly for my prime minister here."

At that same meeting, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the administration was "dismayed" at how the Israeli media had distorted the nature of Kerry's diplomatic efforts. Rice said the reality was that Kerry had worked closely with Israel over the entire three-week course of the fighting with Hamas.

She reiterated the Obama administration's support for Israel's right to defend itself, adding that the administration will set the record straight whenever anyone tries to misrepresent the facts.