(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry should disavow his spokesman’s remarks about the wave of violence in Israel or resign, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Thursday.
“The Obama administration is the most hostile we have seen towards the nation of Israel in our nation’s history,” Cruz said in a statement. “In the last few days, this obsessive antagonism has been on full display.”
The mounting criticism has centered on several statements by State Department spokesman John Kirby relating to the situation in Israel, where eight Israelis have been killed and 70 injured in 23 knife and gun attacks over the past month.
At Wednesday’s daily department press briefing Kirby said, in response to a reporter’s question, that the administration views an incident last week in which a Jewish Israeli was arrested after stabbing and injuring four Bedouin Arabs as “an act of terrorism.”
Asked whether the administration believed both sides were committing such acts, Kirby continued, “Well, I would say certainly individuals on both sides of this divide are – have proven capable of, and in our view guilty of acts of terror.”
Also on Wednesday, Kirby said the U.S. has “seen some reports of [Israeli] security activity that could indicate the potential excessive use of force,” and added, “we’re always concerned about credible reports of excessive use of force against civilians, and we routinely raise our concerns about that.”
At the same briefing, Kirby said that the “status quo” on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem “has not been observed” – an assertion that could be inferred as siding with the Palestinian version of what is happening at the site.
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas claims that Israel is changing the status quo on the sensitive site, where Jews may visit but not formally pray; Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly denied this, charging that repetitive allegations that Israel is threatening to harm the Al-Aqsa mosque there is inciting the violent attacks.
Cruz disagreed in particular with Kirby’s comment that “individuals on both sides of this divide” are guilty of acts of terror.
“It is utterly unacceptable that a senior official in the U.S. government would make such an unfounded slur against Israel, which has been our invaluable ally in the fight against terrorism,” Cruz said.
“We must immediately and unconditionally reject the delusion that the coordinated Palestinian frenzy of bloodlust is in any way legitimate. There is no moral equivalence here between the savagery of the Palestinian terrorists and the innocent Israelis they are trying to murder.”
Cruz called on Kirby to retract the remark or resign, and on Kerry to “immediately disavow these remarks or resign.”
He was also critical of “Kerry’s suggestion that Israel’s settlements provoked the most recent wave of Palestinian terrorism.” (See related story)
A similar call came from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who said Kirby’s statement was “simply not true and dangerously creates more daylight between the United States and Israel during this critical time of need for our trusted friend and ally.”
“Admiral Kirby's accusation warrants his immediate removal,” said Zelden. “He should absolutely not utter one more word on behalf of America's foreign policy. If Secretary John Kerry refuses to speak out and discipline Mr. Kirby than Secretary Kerry needs to step aside as well.”
Meanwhile Kirby walked back two of his earlier statements.
“Clarification from today’s briefing: I did not intend to suggest that status quo at Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif has been broken,” he tweeted later. “We welcome both Israel’s & Jordan’s commitment to continued maintenance of status quo at Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif.” (Jordan supervises the Islamic trust that administers the mosques.)
And with regard to his earlier statement about “excessive use of force” by the Israelis, Kirby said at Thursday’s briefing, “I want to be very clear that we have never accused Israeli security forces of excessive force with respect to these terrorist attacks.”
He reiterated earlier comments that the U.S. recognizes Israel’s right and responsibility to protect its citizens.