WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama said his administration is using all its resources to arrive at a cease-fire in the Gaza conflict and again upheld Israel’s right to self-defense.
“As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people,” Obama said Wednesday in a foreign policy address at the White House.
“There is no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets,” he said. “And I’m proud that the Iron Dome system that Americans helped Israel develop and fund has saved many Israeli lives.”
Obama also noted the loss of civilian life in the Gaza Strip.
“Over the past two weeks, we’ve all been heartbroken by the violence, especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza —- men, women and children who were caught in the crossfire,” the president said on a day that the death toll among Palestinians rose to over 200, most of them civilians, including four boys aged 9 to 11 killed on a Gaza beach.
One Israeli civilian has been killed in the barrage of Hamas rockets.
Israel says it is targeting Hamas military targets and blames Hamas for keeping armaments so close to civilians.
Obama and his officials have consistently blamed Hamas for the outbreak of the conflict launched July 8.
Obama in his address slammed Hamas for “prolonging the conflict,” noting that it had not abided by an Egyptian-proposed cease-fire on Tuesday. Obama said his administration would intensify its work with Egypt and others to reach a cease-fire.
“Over the next 24 hours we’ll continue to stay in close contact with our friends and parties in the region, and we will use all of our diplomatic resources and relationships to support efforts of closing a deal on a cease-fire,” he said.
Separately, former President Bill Clinton defended Israel’s response but said Hamas’ tactics were helping to isolate Israel.
“Over the long run it is not good for Israel to keep isolating itself from world opinion because of the absence of a viable peace process,” Clinton told the Indian NDTV news channel, according to a report by the French news agency AFP. “In the short-to-medium term, Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage on Israel by forcing it to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas.”
Clinton said Israel “couldn’t look like fools” by not responding to Hamas rocket barrages, part of what he said was Hamas’ “strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so the rest of the world will condemn them.”