The United States is circling the wagons around their secretary of state whose ego was apparently wounded by a torrent of Israeli criticism over the weekend regarding his proposed ceasefire draft plan.
John Kerry’s defenders are helping him look more pathetic by taking such umbrage to a unified Israeli cabinet’s rejection of his ceasefire proposal. And a virtually unified Israeli public, including the leftist and far left Israeli media, who are being accurately represented by the Israeli government’s less than flattering evaluations.
One of the biggest complaints about Israel’s criticism was ascribed to the State Department’s spokesperson Jen Psaki. She said, and was quoted in a myriad of media reports for saying, that Israel’s conduct in disseminating what she claims was false information about the proposed ceasefire draft: “it’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other.”
There was a textbook example of a journalist baiting a government official to snipe at another government’s leadership despite her best efforts not to seem to be sniping.
At the State Department’s Daily Briefing on Monday, July 28, Matt Lee of the Associated Press was able to put words into Psaki’s mouth, and continue leading her into accepting certain phraseology to suggest — undoubtedly accurately, but surely going further than Psaki intended – that the U.S. administration was furious with Israel for disrespecting Kerry.
The questions asked by Lee included, “how angry are you? How unhelpful do you believe the Israelis, or at least some Israelis have been in this issue? And how angry are you at what you claim to be a serious misrepresentation of what the Secretary was trying to do?”
Lee then followed up with: “so you accuse – you’re accusing at least some in the Israeli Government of waging a misinformation campaign?”
When Psaki informs Lee, and the rest of the press corps, that she doesn’t have any information on the sources who were allegedly providing inaccurate information, the AP reporter followed up by incorporating one of the most quoted phrases of the day. The exchange follows:
QUESTION: When you say that this is not the way friends and allies should treat each other, you’re referring to Israeli treatment of Secretary Kerry and of his – of the Administration’s attempt to get a ceasefire together?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there are obviously some anonymous sources that are out there that are speaking on behalf of the views of the Israeli Government. Whether or not that is an accurate depiction of their position is not for me to make a judgment of, but –
QUESTION: So how serious is this, in terms of jeopardizing the relationship?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think – I think Israel remains an incredibly important partner.
But Lee was only succesful at goading Psaki into revealing what her employer and her department are apparently feeling. But was the anger directed at the appropriate party? And was the criticism, in any event, justified?
The claims that Israeli leadership was harsh in its criticism concerning Kerry’s proposals and his behavior overlook several important facts. To wit: that while anonymous sources were likely quoting at least some members of the Israeli government, the harshest public attacks on Kerry’s flat-footed diplomacy came not from government officials, but from center, left and even far left members of Israel’s famously leftist media. For example, Barak Ravid of Haaretz wrote that Kerry’s “conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events.”
The Times of Israel’s editor-in-chief, David Horovitz, lambasted the secretary of state’s plan as something that looked like it might have been drawn up by or for Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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