UN Chief Arrives in Israel, but No Cease-fire Expected

Ban Ki-moon will head to Ramallah on Wednesday to meet Abbas, and then return to Israel for talks with Israeli officials.

AP

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to land in Israel 2 P.M. Tuesday in an attempt to push for progress on a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Ban's attempts to secure an hours-long humanitarian cease-fire over the course of the morning failed, however, after Israel rejected the proposal.

Immediately after landing in Israel, Ban will be taken to the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he will meet with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ban and Netanyahu are expected to hold a press conference at 4 P.M., after which Ban will head to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Wednesday, Ban will be back in Israel meet with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Isaac Herzog.

The UN chief is landing in Israel following a short trip to Cairo, where he met Monday night with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Together with his special envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, Ban tried through the night and into the morning to establish a humanitarian cease-fire that would begin at 10 A.M. and end at 3 P.M., to allow the situation to stabilize somewhat before Ban’s arrival in Israel.

A high-ranking Israeli official said that when Ban’s proposal was examined in accordance with the situation of the troops in the field, the conclusion was that a five-hour cease-fire at the present time would help Hamas’ combat effort. Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, contacted Serry and told him that Israel would not accept the proposal.

At the end of the meeting yesterday evening between Ban and Kerry in Cairo, Ban said that the shooting must stop first of all, and then the sides should be encouraged to begin talks, during which various issues would be discussed without a resumption of the violence, and that would also finally include a discussion of the “roots of the conflict in Gaza.”

Kerry said that even if a temporary or long-term cease-fire was attained, it would not solve the problem. Kerry said that it would be necessary to delve deeply into the issues causing tension between Hamas and Israel in Gaza — a hint at lifting the blockade of Gaza.

Kerry spoke with Netanyahu and Abbas by telephone through the night. On Tuesday morning, he met in Cairo with Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj and with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

High-ranking Israeli officials said  Tuesday morning that, at this stage, it seemed that Hamas was not at all interested in a cease-fire and was setting conditions that Israel could not accept.

“We do not see a cease-fire happening in the next several days,” a high-ranking Israeli official said. He added that the goal was to reach a humanitarian cease-fire lasting several days that would allow talks to begin, but that such a goal was unattainable at this stage.

High-ranking American officials in Kerry’s entourage had similar assessments. They said that Kerry’s talks in Cairo had no deadline. “Our goal is to achieve a cessation of hostilities as soon as possible,” he said. “It’s very complicated and it may very well take several days to get this done.”

AP