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Kerry shrugs off Israeli criticism

Tuesday - 7/29/2014, 2:54pm  ET

Secretary of State John Kerry, speaks to reporters at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, during a news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. The United States says there's been "no shred of evidence" that Russia is willing to help end the violence and bloodshed between the Ukraine separatists backed by Moscow and the government in Kiev. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

MATTHEW LEE
AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday widespread criticism of his efforts to win a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas don't worry him and said he will continue to work toward that goal because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to.

"I have taken hits before in politics, I am not worried about it," he told reporters at the State Department. "This is not about me."

Kerry said he is convinced that a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza followed by negotiations to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict is "more appropriate" than continuing to wage war.

"I am not going to worry about personal attacks," he said, adding that he and President Barack Obama are convinced "it is more appropriate to try to resolve the underlying issues at a negotiating table than to continue a tit-for-tat of violence that will invite more violence and perhaps a greater downward spiral which would be much more difficult to recover from."

Kerry has come under harsh criticism in Israel and among its supporters for pushing a cease-fire last week that critics believe will hurt the security of the Jewish state and give legitimacy to the militant Hamas movement that controls Gaza. On Monday, several senior Obama administration officials hit back at the criticism and defended Kerry's efforts as those of a true friend to Israel.

Though he said he wasn't "worried" by the criticism, Kerry showed flashes of pique in his comments, noting at one point that he had a 100-percent pro-Israel voting record in the Senate and would not "take a second seat to anybody" in his devotion to Israel's security.

Kerry also said he wouldn't be pushing for a ceasefire if Netanyahu hadn't asked him to.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu himself said to me, 'Can you try to get a humanitarian cease-fire for this period of time?' And if it weren't for his commitment to it, obviously the president of the United States and I would not be trying to make this effort," Kerry said.

"Now either I take his commitment at face value or someone is playing a different game here, and I hope that's not the fact," he said.


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