Before her meeting with Netanyahu, Clinton had called for a “comprehensive peace.”
“President Obama asked me to come to Israel with a very clear message: America’s commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza,” Clinton said at a joint news conference with Netanyahu. “The rocket attacks from terrorist organizations inside Gaza on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored. The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Clinton also was expected to visit Ramallah, the West Bank city that’s the capital of the Palestinian Authority – the Palestinian government that Israel and the United States recognize – before traveling on to Cairo.
One State Department official, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to a reporter, said Clinton had no specific agenda other than encouraging the sides to reach agreement. "Sometimes there’s no substitute for showing up," the official said.
The hours leading up to what should have been a heralded deal Tuesday night only underscored how precarious the agreement remains. Even as talk of a cease-fire grew, Israel continued its aerial and sea bombardment of Gaza, intended to cripple Hamas’ ability to fire rockets into Israel. The Israeli military reported its first death in the conflict, an 18-year-old soldier. Three other Israelis died last week when a Hamas-fired rockets struck an office building.
Earlier Tuesday night, both sides disagreed on whether they had in fact reached a consensus. The Israelis wanted to wait until they were sure the agreement had Clinton’s backing and endorsement, Egyptian officials said; Israel refused to agree to the deal, Hamas charged; Israel wanted a 24-hour truce first, one Israeli spokesman said.
It seemed the only thing they agreed on was not to trust each other, whatever the terms.
“The parties are hesitant to make agreements because they have no faith, no trust,” an Egyptian official close to the negotiations told McClatchy. He, too, requested that he not be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak to a reporter.
“It could take days, weeks or months for Israel and Gaza to resolve the details of this deal,” said one Israeli political official in Jerusalem, who also spoke anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the agreement publicly. “But the truth is that they will probably never resolve them all. Both sides are just buying some quiet.”
Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense started seven days ago, when Israel assassinated top Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari.
Israel’s chief demand was a long-term truce between the two sides, in which all militant groups in Gaza must agree not to open fire on Israel, an Israeli official told McClatchy. Other terms still being negotiated are a demand by Israel that Hamas stop smuggling weapons into Gaza, and a demand by Hamas that Israel lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The official confirmed that another demand that was “on the table” was an enlarged buffer zone between Israel and Gaza.