Be Wary of Stories Quoting One “Israeli Official”

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July 17 2014 11:42 AM

Be Wary of Stories Quoting One “Israeli Official”

This morning a number of outlets, including the BBC, AFP, and Reuters, quoted claims by an unnamed Israeli official who said that the Israeli government and Hamas had agreed to a cease-fire due to take effect tomorrow morning.

The reports were quickly denied by both Hamas and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, though there are apparently ongoing talks facilitated by the Egyptian government in Cairo.

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It’s not unusual for conflicting statements to come out of a government during combat and high-pressure negotiations. The quick reversal struck me only because the New York Times led its front page this morning with an article declaring that a ground invasion of Gaza is “increasingly likely,” according to a “senior Israeli military official.” The official “spoke on the condition of anonymity under military protocol” and “said that his assessment was based on ‘the signals I get.’ ”

I have no particular reason to doubt this official’s take on the signals coming from the government, but as I noted yesterday, it’s fairly apparent that there’s disagreement and even acrimony among senior Israeli leaders about what course of action to take. It doesn’t seem that unlikely that some officials might be attempting to sway policy with leaks to the international media.

My guess would be that decisions on whether to accept a cease-fire—if there were even one on the table—or escalate to a full-scale ground campaign haven’t been made yet. A lot can happen in the next few days, and I’d take the comments of any anonymous official with a grain of salt.  

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog.