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State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says Secretary Kerry is here to support Egypt’s initiative to restore a November 2012 cease-fire in Gaza, where she says the Obama administration and its international partners are deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.
In an interview with ABC television before leaving Washington, Kerry said Hamas needs to be part of a solution by accepting a cease-fire.
“Hamas has to understand: you cannot sit there and claim moral rectitude or the higher ground while you are busy rocketing people, and capturing people, and digging tunnels to attack them. This has to stop,” said Kerry.
Hamas last week rejected an Egyptian cease-fire as, in its words, “not worth the ink it was written with” because it offered no relief from the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has met with Arab League officials as the head of a new coalition government meant to reunify his Fatah faction in the West Bank with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
But he appears to have little influence with Hamas fighters launching rockets into Israel, calling into question his role in efforts to end the violence. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under pressure from more militant members of his coalition government to expand Israeli ground operations in Gaza, American University professor Guy Ziv says it is too soon to say who will come out of this stronger and who will be weaker.
“We have to see how this plays out. We have to see what the terms of the cease-fire are. And most importantly we have to see whether or not there’s going to be a diplomatic horizon, which I think is essential. This is where Bibi Netanyahu comes in. He needs to offer the Palestinians a better future and negotiate in earnest with Mahmoud Abbas on a two-state solution. That might actually weaken Hamas much more than the current Israeli operations do,” said Ziv.
Secretary Kerry led nine-months of talks on a two-state solution that ended in April without agreement.
His task here in Cairo is considerably more difficult than two years ago when former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood negotiated the last cease-fire. Egypt’s new leader, the former general Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, is far less sympathetic to Hamas, meaning Kerry needs to include those with influence with Hamas, such as Qatar and Turkey.