Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. said on Sunday that Egypt has made only “weak” efforts to influence its ally Hamas to de-escalate the conflict with Israel.
“It’s pretty weak so far from what I can tell. The Egyptians have a real interest here in the region not exploding and the peace agreement continuing to be abided by,” Levin told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
“I think they’re going to have to take some very serious steps diplomatically to make it clear to Hamas that they’re going to lose support in the Arab world if they continue these rocket attacks.”
Newly-elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has condemned Israel’s attacks on Gaza but is engaged in talks between the two sides to broker a ceasefire, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza continues into its fifth day today.
Some, including News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal among other media outlets, blamed Egypt directly for encouraging Hamas’ attacks.
“Can’t Obama stop his friends in Egypt shelling Israel?” Murdoch tweeted on Saturday, adding in a separate tweet that the “Jewish-owned media” is “consistently anti- Israel in every crisis.”
During his first post-election foreign trip to Asia, President Obama reiterated America’s support for Israel.
“We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” Obama said in a joint press conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the Israeli military is prepared to expand the operation.
Levin said that the conflict could still escalate.
“It could escalate and I think the potential is there,” Levin said. “However President Obama and others are doing their best to see if they can’t turn Hamas’s attacks off.”
Benghazi and Ambassador Susan Rice
Levin also came to the defense of embattled U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Sunday, calling the public debate over her explanation for the attacks in Benghazi “unfair.”
“It’s one of the most unfair attacks I’ve seen in Washington in 34 years,” Levin said. “Susan Rice was using the unclassified talking points that were provided by the intelligence community. They were a consensus report.”
Still, House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep.Peter King, R-N.Y., a vocal critic of Rice, said that she provided a misleading explanation of why the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya occurred even though she had access to more detailed information.
“Somewhere after it left the intelligence community, somewhere in the administration, there was very vital language taken out,” King told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. “Now, Susan Rice, though, I would hope, if she’s going to go on national television, is going to rely on more than unclassified talking points.”
Asked by Raddatz why Rice was assigned to speak about the incident on Sunday morning television, Levin said he did not know.
“I have no idea. But that’s not the issue,” Levin said. :The issue is whether or not Susan Rice should be pilloried for using an intelligence report which David Petraeus signed off on, which the DNI … the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Clapper signed off on.“