- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2014

Rep. Mike Rogers on Monday said peace negotiators need to be locked in a room to “sit down and try to work out the issues” before the conflict between Israel and extremist Palestinian fighters from Hamas deepens with more bloodshed.

Right now, the Michigan Republican said, “you’re having this PR war between Hamas and Israel and the United States.”

“You know, those meetings ought to be in quiet until they can come up with an agreement that can be sustained by both sides,” Mr. Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “And I wouldn’t talk about it. If it takes two or three days without any news coming out of that room, so be it.”

The violence around Gaza has raged despite calls for a truce. So far, humanitarian pauses only have offered brief respites from the rocket fire.

Israel has faced criticism for heavy civilian casualties sustained by the Palestinian side, but Israel insists it is defending itself and that Hamas has used innocent people as shields.

“One of the troubling things about this is how Hamas has put their rocket systems in schools and mosques and hospitals … If it weren’t for [Israel‘s] Iron Dome, the antimissile system, there would be thousands and thousands and thousands of more civilian deaths, really on both sides. And that’s what we’ve got to understand here,” he said.

Mr. Rogers said there seems to be a disconnect between Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they try to hammer out peace negotiations.

“I think there’s always been a little bit of friction between Netanyahu and this administration,” he said. “And I think early on some of the early ceasefire requirements didn’t recognize — at least in Israel’s perspective — they didn’t recognize their security concerns about them continuing anti-tunneling operations during a ceasefire.”

Those tunnels are key, he added, because there are fears that Hamas uses them to gain weaponry from Iran.

“I think they want to make sure that this tunneling is both found and destroyed, and prevent the opportunity to do it moving forward,” Mr. Rogers told MSNBC. “So that’s where Israel comes from at this.”