Pressure on Israel to negotiate an end to the nearly monthlong conflict in Gaza appears to have eased, after the swift violation of the latest cease-fire by Hamas.
Like President Obama in his comments Friday, Mideast experts who spoke with USA TODAY did not question Israel's refusal to resume talks with Hamas after three of its soldiers were ambushed almost immediately after the cease-fire was to have begun.
ISRAEL: Missing soldier killed in battle
In a news conference Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would take all the time it needs to eradicate the threat of Hamas from Gaza. He did not mention the scheduled truce talks but did say the U.S. has been "terrific and has given us tremendous support during the Gaza crisis."
That was a different tone than he struck in a call to State Department officials Friday, according to the Associated Press, which reported that Netanyahu told diplomats "not to ever second-guess me again" whether to undertake a cease-fire.
Talks that were set to begin Sunday in Cairo appear to be stalled, as Israeli officials said its representatives would not attend because a previous cease-fire agreement — brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon — fell apart almost immediately after it was set to begin Friday.
The U.S., U.N. and Egypt have tried to advance cease-fire negotiations as a prelude to a longer-term settlement that would involve other Arab nations. But U.S. efforts to get Turkey and Qatar to press Hamas to negotiate was "a blunder,'' Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Saturday. "That was foolhardy, and I think that's the part that officials in Israel really took umbrage with.''
Royce likened involving Qatar to "inviting the arsonists into the firehouse.''
Regionwide talks should focus on bringing in a multinational force to police Gaza and "separate Hamas from their weapons,'' he said. "It's the credible way to ratchet this (conflict) down and get a disarmament of the type of weapons that in the future would be sure to reignite this conflict.''
The Israeli military Saturday said an Israeli soldier, 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, was killed in combat. Israel had said he was abducted, an occurrence that appeared to have stalled any serious talks about a settlement. Before Israel declared the soldier dead, Hamas had denied any knowledge of his whereabouts.
Israel should not have agreed to the Friday cease-fire, let alone go back for more talks, says Caroline Glick of the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank in Washington.
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"Pieces of paper legitimize (Hamas). They place terrorists on the same moral and legal plane as sovereign, lawful states,'' Glick said in an e-mail. "It is an insult that the U.S. has even suggested that Israel should negotiate with Hamas and it is a betrayal of our alliance that the U.S. has coerced Israel to do so.''
Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, supported Israel's decision to skip the proposed talks in Cairo.
"I'm opposed to putting pressure on Israel publicly to do things that obviously it feels are not in its interest,'' he said. A truce that included destruction of tunnels and disarmament of Hamas would be "a lasting cease-fire,'' he said. "A cease-fire is a good thing, and a good goal, but it can't just be any cease-fire.''