President Obama was working the phones throughout the night speaking to Prime Minister Netanyahu once and Egyptian President Morsi twice as he tries to de-escalate violence in the Middle East.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being dispatched urgently to the region. She has already left for Israel. She’ll meet Netanyahu, Palestinian President Abbas in Ramallah, and travel to Cairo.
When asked what leverage Clinton holds in all of this a White House official said they felt face-to-face diplomacy could help but no concrete details were offered.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes briefed us in Cambodia, where President Obama is attending the East Asia Summit.
[ABC News' REENA NINAN: How effective has Morsi been so far? How would you characterize how he's handled the situation?]
RHODES: The president and the secretary believe that the Egyptians have been quite constructive in the conversations we’ve had with them, that they’ve expressed a sincere commitment to support a de-escalation here. What’s important now, again, is to continue to pursue that course, to use the influence that they have over the situation, to encourage that course. To date, we’re encouraged by the cooperation and the consultation we’ve had with the Egyptian leadership. We want to see that, again, support a process that can de-escalate the situation. But again, the bottom line still remains that Hamas has to stop this rocket fire. Ultimately, they’re the ones who are going to have to be a part of a solution that ends the type of terror that Israeli citizens have faced over so many months with this barrage of rockets coming into Israeli territory.
[NINAN: Has Morsi been more effective than Mubarak was in the past?]
RHODES: I wouldn’t want to draw comparisons at this point. You know, obviously this has been a conflict that has been going on for decades. Egypt has been a critical part of our effort to manage that conflict and pursue peace. That was the case under President Mubarak and it continues to be the case under President Morsi who has upheld the peace treaty with Israel. What we’ve seen is, again, our engagement has been focused on practical and constructive cooperation that can reduce tensions but ultimately, again, it’s going to have to be Hamas within Gaza that takes the step of, again, not pursing rocket fire into Israeli territory. But we agree that Egypt can and should be a partner in seeking to bring about that outcome.
[NINAN: What can the Palestinian Authority do, really, at this point. It's all about Gaza and Abbas has no power with Hamas in Gaza strip, so what can they do?]
RHODES: The Palestinian Authority, as the elected leaders of the Palestinian people, need to be a part of this discussion. Specifically in Gaza, they’re going to need to be a part of the solution in the long term in terms of the goals that we all share in improving the humanitarian situation there, having greater opportunity for the people there and having an end to terrorism there. So we believe its very important that the Palestinian Authority continue to be a part of these discussions. They have legitimacy to be a part of these discussions. And they’re clearly going to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people-a leading role.