Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said Sunday that the public international support Israel has enjoyed since launching its military operation in Gaza is nearing its end, which will force it to move toward a cease-fire.
While the military has received public support from the United States and European countries during the operation, behind the scenes the message has been conveyed that a cease-fire must be sought as soon as possible. A main reason for the pressure is concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.
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On Sunday morning, U.S. envoy Hady Amr met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and held a round of talks aimed at ending the hostilities.
The UN Security Council was meanwhile due to convene and discuss the situation on Sunday afternoon. The foreign minister of Egypt and Jordan were set to address the meeting, as were the Palestinian representative and Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan. The United States has twice prevented the Security Council from issuing statements criticizing Israel and its operation against Hamas. Against the backdrop of the mounting push for a cease-fire, Israel's security cabinet convened on Sunday to discuss the latest developments. The meeting ended after more than four hours, without a cease-fire being discussed as an option.
Bezalel Smotrich, the chairman of the far-right Religious Zionism party said Sunday that he strongly opposed a cease-fire, saying that the fighting should end only after “the destruction of all of Hamas’ assets in Gaza and their entire [rocket] firing capability, in a way that will take them dozens of years to recover.”
Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar also spoke out against the prospect of a cease-fire, saying that :we must continue to fatally strike our enemy without distractions.”
According to the Foreign Ministry, an analysis found that 82 percent of the 90 countries it has been in touch with support Israel’s right to defend itself and back further hostilities without demanding a halt to the campaign at this point.
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The ministry said that Israeli diplomats have given hundreds of media interviews worldwide over the past several days and have held discussions with decision makers where they are stationed. A Foreign Ministry official noted that many foreign diplomats have also helped garner backing in their home countries. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has spoken in recent days with over 30 foreign ministers.
Gantz spoke with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Saturday, with a Defense Department statement saying that “Secretary Austin reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself. He strongly condemned the continued onslaught of attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups targeting Israeli civilians. The Secretary shared his view on the need to restore calm.”
Also Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the CEO of the Associated Press following Israel’s destruction of the building housing the news agency’s Gaza office. The State Department said Blinken offered his support for independent journalists and noted the “indispensability” of their reporting in conflict zones.