Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Secretary Clinton announces Gaza cease-fire
By NBC's Domenico Montanaro
UPDATED 1:30 pm ET: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced from Cairo a cease-fire fire between Israel and Hamas in a deal brokered by Egypt.
Clinton described the crisis as "a critical moment for the region."
The agreement is effective at 2:00 pm ET Wednesday, according to the AP.
President Obama also played a key role. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to the cease-fire after Obama urged it, Israeli ambassador the U.S. Michael Oren said on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports.
NBC’s Jim Maceda reports the agreement has two phases – (1) in the short term, a truce to stop the violence in Gaza, and (2) in the long term, to continue negotiations on the thorny issues that have been the underpinnings of tensions.
Israel wants something done about arms smuggling into Gaza and Sinai; Hamas wants a lifting of the six-year blockade. There was no agreement on those issues. The discussions will continue and be monitored by the Egyptians with Clinton also involved.
But NBC's Andy Eckardt reports that in the peace agreement, Israel will guarantee not to assassinate any leaders of Hamas or any other organization, according to Palestinian intelligence sources. Israel and Hamas will also commit to abide to restoring calm on both sides. And, after a few months, Israel will consider to ease the movement for Palestinians.
NBC’s Ali Weinberg reports from the White House that the president spoke to Netanyahu and Egyptian President Morsi.
To Netanyahu, Obama “reiterated his commitment to Israel's security,” according to a readout of their conversation. “The President made clear that no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians."
The readout adds that the president requested Netanyahu work with Egypt and to agree to this cease-fire.
Obama also noted, however, “that Israel maintains the right to defend itself.” And that the U.S. “would use the opportunity offered by a cease-fire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.”
That was echoed by Oren on Andrea Mitchell Reports, when he said that Israel "reserves the right to defend itself if Hamas resumes to fire on our citizens."
Obama thanked Morsi for his work and leadership on the cease-fire. The readout also notes that Obama and Morsi "agreed on the importance of working toward a more durable solution."
There were questions as to how Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, would handle the situation. Many saw this as a critical first test for the new leader. It appears that despite his sympathies with the Palestinian people, he may be willing to play something of the traditional Egyptian role of trying to maintain peace.
President Obama "welcomed President Morsi's commitment to regional security," according to the White House readout.
NBC’s Andrew Gross reports from the State Department that Secretary Clinton spent 30 minutes with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah today, according to Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner. But Abbas has been largely sidelined in these negotiations with Hamas in control.
Toner said the U.S. still considers Abbas to be "relevant" and that "we will continue to work with him."
Toner added that the onus for the violence falls squarely on Hamas and their rocket attacks and that the firing must stop for there to be peace.
The White House was optimistic there would be at least a cease-fire with someone at the level of Clinton heading to the region.
The fighting has killed more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis, according to an AP tally.