Pro-Israel demonstrators who gathered outside the White House on Thursday were met by pro-Arab protesters who held up signs reading “Free Gaza”, “End the siege on Gaza” and “Stop Israel’s slaughtering in Gaza”. A similar confrontation ocurred Thursday night opposite the Israeli Consulate in New York.
The pro-Israel rally wished to express solidarity with Israel, as Operation Pillar of Defense continues, and support the United States for emphasizing Israel’s right to defend itself.
President Barack Obama spoke to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu early Thursday. A White House statement said that “the President reiterated to Prime Minister Netanyahu the United States' support for Israel's right to self defense in light of the barrage of rocket attacks being launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians. The President urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties."
The statement said Obama and Netanyahu agreed that Hamas needed to stop attacks on Israel to "allow the situation to de-escalate."
On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner also underscored Israel’s right to defend itself, saying, “We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence.
“There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately. We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” he added.
In another conversation between U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak this week, Panetta also expressed the U.S. view that Israel has the right to defend itself.
Western nations have mostly backed Israel during the Gaza operation and have stressed that the onus is on Hamas to halt rocket fire into southern Israel in order to stop the fighting.