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Dermer: Attacks on Kerry ‘unwarranted’

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry is “unwarranted,” the Israeli ambassador to Washington said, as U.S. officials made public their unhappiness with the attacks.

“Israel appreciates that President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who is here today, have strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself. We also appreciate their efforts to help achieve a sustainable cease-fire,” Ron Dermer said Monday at an assembly of Jewish leaders and top U.S. officials to show support for Israel during its war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“I speak directly for my prime minister here,” he said. “The criticism of Secretary Kerry for his good faith efforts to advance a sustainable ceasefire is unwarranted.”

Dermer was referring to a barrage of criticism over the weekend, much of it leaked through the Israeli press, aimed at a cease-fire proposal presented last week by Kerry to the Israeli government.

Israeli officials, speaking anonymously, told Israeli media that the document seemed to lean toward Hamas, specifying as topics of negotiation the opening of border crossings and salaries for officials of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip while only referring broadly to “security issues” for both sides.

Israel wants a cease-fire to stipulate the dismantling of Hamas’ rockets and the destruction of its tunnels into Israel.

Rice in her remarks at the same gathering said the Obama administration was “dismayed by some press reports in Israel mischaracterizing (Kerry’s) efforts last week to achieve a cease-fire. We know these misleading reports in turn raise concerns here at home in America.”

U.S. officials had over the weekend anonymously told reporters that they were appalled by the attacks on Kerry, but Rice’s public airing suggested how seriously the White House took the matter.

In her briefing with reporters Monday, Kerry’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, suggested the Israeli officials behind the campaign were behaving inappropriately considering that the U.S. is their friend.

“Our view is it’s simply not the way that partners and allies treat each other,” she said. “So it was important, in our view, to lay out on the record what the facts are about what has happened here, and we’re certainly hopeful that we can all focus moving forward on how we achieve a cease-fire and not on other misinformation campaigns.”

The Monday assembly, held at the national Press Club and organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America, drew top lawmakers, including Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House minority whip.

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