House Intel Chairman Rogers: US Trapped in Israel-Hamas 'PR War'

Image: House Intel Chairman Rogers: US Trapped in Israel-Hamas 'PR War' House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)

Monday, 28 Jul 2014 12:23 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have always had "a little bit of friction," House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers said Monday, complaining that he has not been comfortable with how details of peace talks between Israel and Hamas have been leaked.

"Those meetings ought to be in quiet until they can come up with an agreement that can be sustained by both sides," the Michigan Republican said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "If it takes two or three days without any news coming out of that room, so be it."

When it came to talks of a potential cease-fire, Rogers said, there was "miscommunication" between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations, and Israel "believed that they were kind of going this alone."

On Sunday, President Barack Obama called Netanyahu, seeking an "immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire" pending a longer peace agreement.

But Netanyahu appeared on several Sunday morning talk shows to speak out against Hamas, saying the militant organization intentionally puts Palestinians in harm's way and has violated many cease-fire agreements.

The United States is being trapped in a "PR war" between Hamas and Israel as a result, said Rogers, and "that's just not a healthy place for us to be."

Rogers, who describes himself as a supporter of Israel, said Monday that the early cease-fire requirements, "at least in Israel's perspective," did not recognize security concerns about continuing anti-tunneling operations.

"With that lack of consideration, I think they believe that they were kind of going this alone, which made them take a little harder position on those things," Rogers said of the agreement, handled by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israel has already shut down more than 35 "very sophisticated" tunnels leading from Gaza into its country, and Rogers believes Israel "wants to make sure that this tunneling is both found and destroyed," a concern that Israel feels may not be shared.

In addition, said Rogers, Hamas has put rocket systems "in schools and mosques and hospitals" and "firing these rockets into civilian population centers."

And without Israel's famed "Iron Dome" protection system, "there would be thousands and thousands and thousands of more civilian deaths really on both sides," said Rogers.

But the lawmaker said he believes there is a path forward.

"If you take where Hamas wants to go, they need open borders," said Rogers. "But if we are going to agree to that, if the United States is going to be a part of that, and Israel is going to agree to that, then it needs to be to make sure that only humanitarian aid gets through. It can't be about resupply of weapon systems."

There is now talk of "rolling cease-fires" because both sides are "at a bit of an impasse with what their stated objectives are," he said.

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