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Middle East

Criticism of Kerry not from Netanyahu: diplomat

Dermer: “This is a just war.” (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP, File)

WASHINGTON: Israel’s ambassador to the United States said Wednesday that criticism from within the Jewish state of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peacemaking efforts is traceable to Israel’s “very rambunctious democracy” and not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “This is not coming from the prime minister,” Ambassador Ron Dermer said in a nationally broadcast interview.

“The prime minister appreciates” what Kerry has done in seeking a cease-fire in the Gaza war, he said.

And he called the more than three-week conflict “a just war.”

“I can’t think of a more just war,” Dermer said in a television appearance on MSNBC. “Hamas is no different than Al-Qaeda. You can imagine what the American people would want their government to do.”

Kerry earlier this week brushed off the criticism, telling reporters that “I am not going to worry about personal attacks.”

For his part, the Israeli ambassador said Wednesday, “This is the Israeli press that is speaking. We are a free country.”

“We have a coalition government,” he said. “People have to understand this is a very rambunctious democracy.” Dermer said he would be deserving of a prize if he could get Netanyahu out of a Knesset debate “without someone calling him a liar.”

Speaking to reporters Monday at the State Department, Kerry noted he had a 100-percent pro-Israel voting record in the Senate and said he would not “take a second seat to anybody” in his devotion to Israel’s security. Kerry also said he wouldn’t be pushing for a cease-fire if Netanyahu hadn’t asked him to.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu himself said to me, ‘Can you try to get a humanitarian cease-fire for this period of time?’ And if it weren’t for his commitment to it, obviously the president of the United States and I would not be trying to make this effort,” Kerry said.

“Now either I take his commitment at face value or someone is playing a different game here, and I hope that’s not the fact,” he said.

Dermer argued that “87 percent” of the Israeli people are against a cease-fire, saying, “I think the criticism you’re seeing is a country at war, a free press.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 31, 2014, on page 9.

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