Hopefully Netanyahu ignores him.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is increasingly concerned about the escalating violence in Gaza, believing that a ground incursion by Israel there could lead to increased civilian casualties, play into the hands of the militant Palestinian group Hamas and inflict further damage to Israel’s standing in the region at an already tumultuous time.
Though President Obama uttered immediate and firm public and private assurances that Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks emanating from Gaza, administration officials have been privately urging Israeli officials not to extend the conflict, a move that many American officials believe could benefit Hamas.
A protracted escalation, the officials fear, could damage Israel’s already fragile relationships with Egypt and Jordan at a time when both of those governments have been coming under pressure from their own populations.
Mr. Obama telephoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Friday for the second time this week, and officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have been on the phone with their Israeli counterparts since then.
Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, the Israeli Air Force’s commander in chief, was in Washington early in the week — before the Gaza crisis began — and met with American officials, although it was unclear whether he warned them beforehand that Israel intended to launch a missile strike against the Hamas military commander.
During this call with Mr. Netanyahu, the White House said that Mr. Obama “reiterated U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself, and expressed regret over the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives.” The two leaders, the White House said, “discussed options for de-escalating the situation.”
Mr. Obama was also grappling with how to cajole an Egyptian government that is radically different from the one that the United States has relied on for so many years. This is no longer the Egypt of Hosni Mubarak, who for decades stood with a succession of American leaders to try to rein in Hamas against popular opinion at home.