TEL AVIV – Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to sideline Egypt in Israel-Hamas cease-fire talks has forced the Egyptian government to move closer to Hamas’ positions in Gaza, according to an Egyptian official involved with the truce talks who spoke to WND on condition of anonymity.
The Egyptian official backed the Israeli government’s reported frustration over Kerry’s attempts to broker a cease-fire, with Egypt believing Kerry’s truce proposals would have served Hamas’ anti-Israel agenda.
“Kerry acts more like a first-year college student taking a course on the Middle East than a diplomat who knows what’s going on,” said the Egyptian official.
The official confirmed Israel’s version of events as published Sunday in the country’s Haaretz newspaper.
In an article that has created a diplomatic row between the U.S. and Israel, the Haaretz newspaper Sunday published what it said was a final version of Kerry’s cease-fire proposal presented to Israel Friday that made scarce reference to the Jewish state’s security needs.
The proposal called for a seven-day humanitarian cease-fire that banned the Israeli military from targeting the Hamas tunnels that entered Israeli territory and from which Hamas has attempted numerous attacks the past few days.
Kerry’s proposal did not call for Gaza to be demilitarized, one of Israel’s baseline requests.
The draft reportedly met many of Hamas’ key demands, including the opening of the Egypt-Gaza borders, passage of goods and payment of the salaries of members of the Hamas government.
In one of the most contentious parts for Israel, Kerry’s proposal sidestepped Egypt and instead called for a long-term truce to be supervised and implemented with Turkey and Qatar, countries known to be close to Hamas and hostile to Israel.
The Haaretz piece reported Israeli diplomats were stunned by the proposed truce terms. The newspaper quoted unnamed Jerusalem officials questioning Kerry’s grasp of knowledge on Mideast events.
The Egyptian diplomat speaking to WND said Egypt, known to be weary of Hamas, grew concerned by the U.S. attempt to exclude Cairo from truce negotiations in the place of Hamas’ allies Qatar and Turkey.
The diplomat said the Egyptian government is now willing to entertain a Hamas contingent along the Egypt-Gaza border, whereas before Kerry’s involvement in truce talks, Cairo would only accept a Fatah force at its border crossings with Gaza.
Kerry’s office has pushed back against the Haaretz article, refusing to confirm the draft published by the newspaper was a final version.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of Israeli criticism of Kerry’s alleged proposals, “It’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other.”
Tony Blinken, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, was quoted saying, “Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender than John Kerry.
The Associated Press reported Blinken said the Israeli criticism of Kerry was based on “people leaking things that are either misinformed or attempting to misinform.”