As US Secretary of State made his way back to Washington to reassess the Middle East peace process, US President Barack Obama added his voice to those praising the diplomat for his “tireless” efforts to facilitate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
An aide present at a meeting Obama held with his national security team Friday said the president made clear that the White House had no reservations about Kerry’s approach, according to The New York Times.
“I see a lot of senior officials quoted about Kerry and Middle East peace. But I’m the most senior official, and I have nothing but admiration for how John has handled this,” the aide reportedly quoted Obama as saying.
Earlier Friday, officials in the White House defended the “tireless” Kerry amid criticism that his approach to the peace process had failed, saying his long-odds Middle East peace bid had not been a waste of time because the stakes were so high.
The administration rode to Kerry’s defense amid rising disapproval for his decision to devote so much time to the peace effort, which appears on the verge of collapse.
“What Secretary Kerry has done is work tirelessly,” said Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, noting the top US diplomat’s frequent travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
“He’s been tireless in his efforts to try to broker some common ground between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Asked whether Kerry’s time had been wasted, or if it could have been better spent on many of the other boiling global crises, Earnest said the goal of Middle East peace was so important that he had been right to try – even if the chances of success were never high.
Kerry was returning to the United States Friday and Earnest said he would speak to Obama in the coming days to assess US options.
Kerry spoke to both Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Thursday, trying to bring the two sides back from the brink.
But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected his appeals to withdraw the applications he signed on Tuesday to adhere to 15 international treaties, a Palestinian official told AFP.
And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignored appeals to refrain from “unhelpful” tit-for-tat moves and asked officials to draw up a range of tough reprisals, Israeli media reported.
Kerry has faced a barrage of unflattering media criticism in the United States in recent days, especially over revelations Washington could offer the release of US born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to entice concessions from Israel.
Several mainstream US papers branded the suggestion as “desperate.”