By Rebecca Shabad - 07/29/14 08:54 AM EDT
Former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) on Tuesday said Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryObama phones Italian leader after deadly earthquake US arms sale to Saudi Arabia under fire from lawmakers Top Republican presses Kerry for Iran 'ransom' details MORE should be praised for his attempts to help bridge a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza.
“I think the secretary should be commended for his efforts. Until there is a cease-fire, I think he will be under criticism," Mitchell said on CNN’s “New Day.”
Asked if Kerry has miscalculated in negotiations, Mitchell said, “I don’t think so.”
“Anybody who’s in the position is subject to criticism until you get a successful resolution. This is the kind of position where you can expect the kind of criticism from both sides,” he added.
He argued both Israel and Hamas have made “immediate gains” either militarily or politically.
“Hamas is gaining politically,” he said, because Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is “sidelined and increasingly losing political support.”
Mitchell said he’s optimistic about the prospects for a solution soon.
“I think that eventually it will happen, that it’s so much in the interest of both societies, that there be a resolution for this conflict,” he said.
Israel's Defense Forces, however, ramped up their operation on Monday inside the Gaza Strip to destroy Hamas-built tunnels that lead into israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis to prepare for a "prolonged" operation.
Mitchell’s comments backing Kerry comes the day after White House deputy national adviser Tony Blinken also defended Kerry against Israeli criticism, saying there is “no stronger defender” than Kerry for Israel and peace in the region.
Reports from Israeli media over the weekend said Israeli officials accused Kerry of “capitulating” to Hamas in cease-fire talks last week.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and Blinken pushed back against those allegations on Monday, explaining that the drafted cease-fire Israel rejected on Friday was not a U.S. proposal. They said it mirrored the original Egyptian-sponsored proposal from mid-July, which Israel had accepted and Hamas rejected.