Israel lobbies support for Gaza operations

Washington urges Egypt to take steps to calm the situation; Netanyahu: We'll do what's necessary.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu and FM Avigdor Lieberman 370 (R) (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
PM Binyamin Netanyahu and FM Avigdor Lieberman 370 (R)
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
Israel rallied world leaders on Thursday to support more military strikes against Gaza, as Egypt, with US backing, continued to work toward a cease-fire.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington had urged Cairo to take steps to calm the situation.
“We ask Egypt to use its influence in the region to help de-escalate the situation,” he said.
Both US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to their Egyptian counterparts by phone on Wednesday in an appeal for partnership in deescalating the tension.
Obama told President Mohamed Morsi that Egypt had a “central role in preserving regional security.”
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Obama, according to a White House statement put out after the call, stressed to Morsi that Israel has the right to self-defense.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the foreign press that “Israel will continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said, “We are not going to settle for a cease-fire that will be violated within a week or two.”
“We want to prevent Palestinians in Gaza from returning to terror activity against Israel,” he said.
Netanyahu spent Thursday in Tel Aviv in security and diplomatic consultations.
When a warning siren rang out in Tel Aviv, he moved to a secure room, and continued working.
He spoke with Russian President Vladmir Putin and French President François Hollande. He was expected to speak later in the night with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This followed conversations he had late Wednesday night with Obama, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Liberman also spoke with his counterparts, including the foreign ministers of Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Bulgaria.
The UK on Thursday issued a strong statement in support of Israel’s right to defend itself.
“Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
He condemned the rocket attacks on Israel and said that they must stop immediately.
The attacks created an “intolerable situation” for Israelis, who had the right to live without fear, he said.
“I call on those in the region with influence over Hamas to use that influence to bring about an end to the attacks,” Hague said.
Still, he also “strongly urge[d] Israel to do their utmost to reduce tension, avoid civilian casualties... The escalation of the conflict would be in no one’s interest, particularly at a time of instability in the region.”
The events of recent days, he said, “have underscored the need for a twostate solution which allowed Israelis and Palestinians to live alongside each other in peace and security.”
His country would do all it could to support the resumption of negotiations, Hague said.
The United States on Wednesday and Thursday blamed Hamas for the violence, and supported Israel’s right to defense.
“There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said it was legitimate for Israel to protect its citizens.
Quartet special envoy Tony Blair told CNN, “If there are rockets fired from Gaza, Israel will retaliate.”
France’s Hollande has begun talks with Netanyahu, Egypt’s Morsi and other world leaders in an effort to avert an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, French Prime Minister Jean-Francois Ayrault said on Thursday.
“It’s time to stop this escalation, which is dangerous for the security of Israel and its people and for that of the Palestinian people,” Ayrault told reporters during a visit to Berlin.
France had made “direct contact” with Netanyahu and Morsi, he added.
Arab leaders condemned Israel, with Egypt and the Palestinians appealing to the UN Security Council to intervene.
The council held a closed-door meeting late Wednesday night, but issued only an oral message that the violence must stop.
Morsi, in conversations he held with Ban and then with Obama, urged them to force Israel to stop its Gaza attacks.
The UN secretary-general’s office denied on Thursday evening Israeli media reports that he was traveling to the region.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil was scheduled to visit Gaza on Friday, in an attempt to broker a cease-fire. It will be the first visit to Gaza by an Egyptian prime minister.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu said in Tel Aviv, “I saw today a picture of a bleeding Israeli baby. This picture says it all: Hamas deliberately targets our children, and they deliberately place their rockets next to their children. Despite this reality, and it’s a very difficult reality, Israel will continue to do everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties.
“There is no moral symmetry; there is no moral equivalence, between Israel and the terrorist organizations in Gaza. The terrorists are committing a double war crime. They fire at Israeli civilians, and they hide behind Palestinian civilians. And by contrast, Israel takes every measure to avoid civilian casualties,” he said.
Hamas, he said, had placed more than a million Israelis in danger, and no government would tolerate that.
“In the past 24 hours Israel had made it clear that it would not tolerate rocket and missile attacks on its civilians. I hope that Hamas and the other terror organizations in Gaza got the message,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this report. •