Israeli soldiers walk at dusk near the border with the Gaza Strip. (Atef Safadi / EPA )
WASHINGTON -- President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to commend him for accepting an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Hamas, the White House said in a statement.
It noted that Obama had urged Netanyahu to accept the deal.
Obama also reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel's security, and promised to expand spending on joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs. The American-financed Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted most of the Palestinian rockets aimed at heavily populated areas of Israel and has been hailed as a success story of the eight-day conflict.
TIMELINE: Israel-Gaza conflict
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also hailed the deal, but made one point that Obama left unmentioned, arguing that the conflict points up the need for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Obama was frustrated in peacemaking efforts early in his first term, and it is unclear if he will mount a new effort in his second term.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in announcing the deal in Cairo along with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr, pledged to "consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, provide security for the people of Israel." But she too avoided mention of a return to peace talks.
The cease-fire deal has given the administration a claim on diplomatic success, but the outcome could easily have gone the other way.
Obama and Clinton could have been embarrassed if the talks had been stalemated or, worse, if Israel had begun a ground operation after the U.S.' top diplomat had arrived in the region on Tuesday.
As it was, there had been a growing undercurrent of criticism of the administration in Washington and abroad for its initial failure to dispatch a top official to the scene, a breach of precedent set over decades of Arab-Israeli conflicts.
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