National Security

Both Israel and Egypt Rejected Kerry’s Assistance in Cease-Fire Negotiations

John Kerry / AP

Secretary of State John Kerry offered numerous times to fly to Cairo or Jerusalem to assist in cease-fire negotiations but was told that the sides "didn’t need American mediation," according to an account of events by Haaretz.

Senior Israeli officials told Haaretz that Kerry offered to come to directly join the talks in each and every call during the attempted brokering of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas on Monday, but was "politely rejected" by all sides.

Egypt wanted to prove that it could play its traditional diplomatic role with regards to Gaza without U.S. assistance. Israel thought that a visit by Kerry would make it look like the United States pressured Israel to make a deal, which would have been a public relations victory for Hamas.

Senior Israeli officials said that in every phone call that day, Kerry offered to fly immediately to Cairo, and perhaps even Jerusalem, to try to advance a cease-fire. But Egyptians and Israelis both politely rejected that offer, telling Kerry they are already in direct contact and didn’t need American mediation.

Cairo objected to Kerry coming because it wanted to show that President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi’s new government was capable of playing Egypt’s traditional diplomatic role with regard to Gaza without outside help. Jerusalem objected because it thought Kerry’s arrival would be interpreted as American pressure on Israel, and thus as an achievement for Hamas.

Ironically, however, Kerry’s pressure to fly in pushed Egypt and Israel to accelerate their own efforts to craft a cease-fire proposal. A senior Israeli official said the Egyptian proposal essentially adopted the ideas raised by Abbas several days earlier. Abbas had suggested that the Egyptians first declare an end to hostilities by both sides, and then begin detailed negotiations over various issues related to Gaza, such as easing restrictions on its border crossings with both Egypt and Israel.

A senior Israeli official said that "most of the negotiations over the cease-fire took place between Egypt and Israel."