John Kerry Leaves After Failing to Achieve Ceasefire

YERUSHALAYIM -

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s hopes of quickly reaching a ceasefire agreement were dashed last night when it became clear that, as of now, there is no willingness on the part of Hamas to move in the direction of a ceasefire. Therefore, he decided to return home, promising that the moment the conditions become ripe for an agreement “I will be back,” he said.

Senior officials in Israel who have been involved in the talks with Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that as of now, “there is no serious proposal for a ceasefire, and as such, the fire will continue ceaselessly.”

Kerry met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the government complex in Tel Aviv. They spoke for nearly three hours, and the atmosphere was chilly. Netanyahu vehemently protested to Kerry about his country’s decision to suspend flights to Ben Gurion Airport, blaming the United States for making a decision that has no security basis.

Prior to that, Kerry met with PA chairman Abu Mazen (Abbas), as well as Ban Ki-moon who was in Israel at the same time. They tried to work out a humanitarian ceasefire, but that, too, failed.

All the diplomatic figures working over the past few days to find an acceptable ceasefire framework understand that they will not be able to do so right now.

Kerry flew to Israel on an Air Force jet — one day after the FAA banned commercial flights into Ben Gurion Airport because of a Hamas rocket attack nearby.

White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said there must be a way forward that does not involve Hamas having the ability to “rain down rockets on Israeli civilians.”

“One of the results, one would hope, of a cease-fire would be some form of demilitarization so that this doesn’t continue, doesn’t repeat itself,” Blinken said in an interview with NPR. “That needs to be the end result.”

Asked about Blinken’s remarks, Kerry said, “All of the issues of Gaza would be on the table.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said late Tuesday he had discussed with faction leaders, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Islamic Jihad among them, conditions for reaching a cease-fire, including “opening border crossings and ending all forms of aggressions.” Prisoner releases, humanitarian aid to Gaza and holding a donors conference for the reconstruction of Gaza were among the topics discussed, Abbas said.

Ban called for the killing to stop on both sides, but also made something of a turnabout, condemning Hamas for using human shields.

“We condemn the use of civilian sites, schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities for military purposes,” he said.

The comment was in contrast to remarks he made Sunday in Doha, where he decried the vigorous Israeli military campaign.

“I know that while I was en route to Doha, dozens more civilians, including children, have been killed in Israeli military strikes in the Shejaia neighborhood in Gaza,” he said. “I condemn this atrocious action. Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians. I repeat my demand to all sides that they must respect international humanitarian law.”

Meanwhile, in New York, the Conference of Presidents welcomed the call by Blinken for the demilitarization of Gaza.

“This is, as Mr. Blinken noted, the only step that can stop the pattern of past years which saw Hamas violate every agreement and use the interim periods to build up its military capacity, stockpile weapons and, most recently, dig tunnels deep into Israel — all of this, at the expense of the people of Gaza.”

“Hamas cannot be allowed to emerge from this latest war, which has exposed the extent of its efforts to destroy Israel, from more sophisticated and deadly rockets in the sky to tunnels deep beneath the earth, with the ability to resume its devastating cause. By removing missiles and weapons from Gaza, a long term, constructive peace becomes possible and paves the way for meaningful negotiations,” the Conference said in a statement on Wednesday. (With reporting by AP)