Barack Obama: I demand that Israel agrees to an immediate, unilateral ceasefire and halt all offensive activities, in particular airstrikes.
Benjamin Netanyahu: And what will Israel receive in exchange for a ceasefire?
BO: I believe that Hamas will cease its rocket fire — silence will be met with silence.
BN: Hamas broke all five previous ceasefires. It’s a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
BO: I repeat and expect Israel to stop all its military activities unilaterally. The pictures of destruction in Gaza distance the world from Israel’s position.
It goes on, with O allegedly promising to have our terror-supporting friends Turkey and Qatar mediate with Hamas once Israel ceases fire, to which Netanyahu supposedly says, “I protest because Hamas can continue to launch rockets and use tunnels for terror attacks.” “I protest”? Jeffrey Goldberg imagines the rest of the conversation:
Another possibility: Maybe the “transcript” is just a few translated iterations of an actual transcript. Apparently an American source provided Israeli media with the original transcript, then it was translated into Hebrew, and then possibly translated back into English by someone else, leading to the odd, stilted rhetoric here.
In any case, Ben Rhodes says the whole thing is false, as does the National Security Council’s spokesman. Just as I’m writing this, Netanyahu’s office is claiming it’s false too. Is it possible that O demanded a unilateral ceasefire, though, irrespective of the language he used? Sure, why not? That atrocious ceasefire proposal that Kerry floated last weekend was a Turkey/Qatar wishlist of Israeli concessions to Hamas. A unilateral ceasefire would be another. If the “transcript” is a total fabrication, it remains plausible enough to have experts wondering only because of how Obama and Kerry have behaved so far:
Kerry’s initial plan was to support Egypt’s demand that Hamas accept a cease-fire. When Hamas balked at surrender and it was clear that Egypt lacked the clout to make the deal stick, Kerry turned to Turkey and Qatar, which as friends and financial backers of Hamas had more leverage. That put the deal first and a stable solution to Gaza’s problems second. The deal blew up anyway, victim of Israeli and Palestinian inability to get to yes.
By turning to Turkey and Qatar, Kerry also enhanced their position in the regional power game. That’s contrary to the interests and desires of the United States’ traditional allies, such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the moderate Palestinian camp headed by Abbas.
Maybe the Turks and Qataris demanded that Kerry at least offer their proposal as a condition of working on this going forward. They have leverage over Hamas; in theory, if not in practice, they’d be willing to use it and Obama needs their cooperation in trying to contain Syria and Iraq. He doesn’t want to be sucked into some wider confrontation between Israel and Turkey a la the Mavi Marmara flotilla disaster in 2010 — although he may have no choice — at a moment when the region’s attention should be focused on ISIS. The sooner he can get Israel to stop firing, even though Hamas retains a gigantic stockpile of rockets hidden in as-yet-undestroyed terror tunnels, the fewer opportunities Erdogan will have to coopt another Israel/Hamas confrontation for his own Islamist ends.