Israeli ambassador: Kerry slams came from press

Criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Middle East peace efforts came not from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the Israeli press, Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said Wednesday.

“There were two Haaretz journalists who, I think, had the most withering criticism of the secretary, and to believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu is writing talking points for a Haaretz journalist is like thinking that President Obama is writing talking points for [Bill] O’Reilly and [Sean] Hannity. So, this is the Israeli press that’s speaking up,” Dermer said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

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Dermer explained that an overwhelming majority of Israelis have said they are against a cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza, which has fueled public antipathy toward Kerry’s efforts.

“One of the reasons why I think the secretary had a problem, not from the prime minister, but from the public, was that he was trying to advance a sustainable cease-fire, and we appreciate his efforts to do so,” he said. “This is definitely not coming from the prime minister, I can assure you of that.”

Before Dermer became ambassador last year, he served as a senior adviser to Netanyahu. 

On Tuesday, Israel’s Channel 1 News leaked a transcript it said it received from a senior U.S. official of a tense phone conversation President Obama had with Netanyahu on Sunday evening.

The National Security Council (NSC), U.S. officials and Netanyahu’s office all said the transcript was fabricated.

“We have seen reports of an alleged POTUS-Netanyahu transcript; neither reports nor alleged transcript bear any resemblance to reality,” the NSC tweeted. “Shocking and disappointing someone would sink to misrepresenting a [private] convo between POTUS and PM in fabrications to Israeli press.”

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes also tweeted that the report “is totally false.”

Asked if there’s a rogue element within the Israeli government, Dermer pointed out “the leaked transcript actually came from an American source and not from an Israeli source, and it’s totally false, a gross distortion of the conversation between the prime minister and President Obama both in style and substance.”

Dermer said earlier this week criticism of Kerry was “unwarranted.” Some Israeli media outlets reported last weekend that Israeli sources accused Kerry of “capitulating” to Hamas in a draft cease-fire that Israel rejected on Friday.

The White House has completely rejected those reports and argued that the floated proposal was not from the U.S., but mirrored the original Egyptian offer from earlier this month, which Israel had accepted and Hamas rejected.

The Israeli Defense Forces, meanwhile, agreed on Wednesday to a four-hour humanitarian cease-fire. An attack on a United Nations school in Gaza killed at least 15 people the same day, but it’s unclear which side was responsible.