Kerry Opens a Second Front
The two constants of the Obama administration’s foreign policy have both been on ample display in the efforts to force upon Israel a premature ceasefire to the fighting in Gaza. The first constant has been the consistent betrayal of allies – originally Poland and Czechoslovakia – to curry favor with enemies – i.e., Russia. Bernard Lewis long ago described the United States under Obama as “neither trusted by its friends nor feared by its enemies.”
The second constant has been an inexplicable affection for the Muslim Brotherhood, its supporters – Turkey and Qatar, and its offshoots – Hamas. Had the Obama administration had its way there would still be a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. Instead of the current Egyptian government closing down Hamas’s smuggling tunnels across the Philadelphi Corridor and fighting Islamic jihadists in the Sinai, Hamas would still be smuggling in rockets and concrete for its offensive tunnels and the Islamic jihadists would be extending their control over the Sinai.
With respect to the betrayal of allies, it would be nearly impossible to overstate the shock in Israel at the proposed ceasefire agreement Kerry put before the Israeli cabinet last Friday. The normally fractious cabinet rejected the proposal out of hand by an unanimous 19-0 vote, with the most left-wing member of the cabinet, Tzipi Livni, telling Kerry that his proposal was a non-starter.
The anger of Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas at being by-passed by Kerry, who chose to negotiate with Hamas through its chosen interlocutors Turkey and Qatar, and not with the Abbas, who at least on paper heads a Palestinian unity government of which Hamas is nominally part, nearly matched the Israelis’, and was thoroughly vented in the official PA media. Nor was Egypt thrilled to have its ceasefire proposal, which Prime Minister Netanyahu had previously accepted, ditched in favor of Hamas’s demands channeled via Turkey and Qatar.
With respect to Obama’s affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood, Barak Ravid of the left-wing Ha’aretz, summed up the Kerry proposal thusly: [I]t might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. The document recognized Hamas’s position in the Gaza Strip, promised the organization billions in donation funds and demanded no dismantling of rockets, tunnels or other heavy weaponry at Hamas’s disposal.”
After dumping this package of goodies on Israel, Kerry jetted off to France, where he was photographed the next day yukking it up with the Turkish and Qatari ambassadors. His choice of friends brought no joy to Jerusalem, or to Cairo, Amman, or Ramallah for that matter. Just days earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, whom Obama once called his best friend in the Middle East, had accused Netanyahu of being worse than Hitler. And Qatar, with which the U.S. has just signed an 11 billion dollar arms deal, is Hamas’s major financier and arms supplier. It has provided Hamas with nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars over the last two years. It is also the principal bankroller behind the ISIS, which has proclaimed a new caliphate in the vast expanse of Syrian and Iraqi territory it now controls. For good measure, Qatar provides better than half a billion dollars annually to jihadist groups in Libya.
WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA PRESSURED NETANYAHU to accept a ceasefire on Sunday night, he left any discussion of demilitarizing the Gaza Strip to a distant (and never to be reached future) when the conflict with Hamas (whose charter calls for the annihilation of Israel) will somehow be peacefully resolved. At the same time he put the easing of the blockade on Gaza at the top of immediate concerns, even as Hamas’s pouring of all the concrete allowed to be imported under previous U.S. brokered ceasefire agreements into attack tunnels has made the necessity of the blockade on Gaza more evident than ever before.
The Kerry/Obama proposal effectively rewards Hamas for starting a war by firing hundreds of rockets at Israel.
Obama presumably knows that there is no way in the world that Prime Minister Netanyahu could accept the Kerry proposal for an immediate ceasefire as a basis of discussion. The Israeli public, which at presents gives Netanyahu an 82% approval rating (approximately twice Obama’s), would have his head if Operation Preventive Edge ended before the government had certified that it has found and destroyed all the attack tunnels extending from Gaza into the Israel. Maariv reports that captured Hamas operatives have revealed plans for a mass terror attack on Rosh Hashanah employing multiple offensive tunnels. No one living near the Gaza border wants to live with such a threat underfoot.
Close to 50,000 reservists have been mobilized for Operation Protective Edge. Beyond the strain placed on the families of reservists, that mobilization costs the Israeli economy hundreds of millions of shekels daily. A ceasefire, especially one likely to be broken many times, only serves to multiply the costs of mobilization. In addition, it would provide Hamas with an opportunity to regroup and thus likely result in the loss of more Jewish lives, when the hostilities inevitably resume.
Israel has paid a terrible price in the blood of its soldiers – more than fifty of whom have been killed to date – out of recognition that the battle is one for our homes, as Netanyahu puts it. Should Israelis come to feel that blood was shed in vain, as would be the case if this turns out to be just another “mowing the lawn” operation, they will exact a high price from those deemed responsible.
In April 2002, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, after a month in which over 130 Jews lost their lives in terror attacks. A far friendlier American president, George W. Bush, ordered Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop the operation early on, before the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank had been dealt a serious blow. Sharon ignored him, and the operation continued for another three weeks.
Then too Israel paid a heavy price – 39 soldiers, including 13 killed in a booby-trapped house that any other army in the world would have destroyed from the outside without worrying if there might still be civilians inside. But the result of Operation Defensive Shield was an almost total stoppage of terrorism from Judaea and Samaria. Netanyahu will be judged according to the standard set by Sharon.
So unbalanced and lacking in any chance of doing anything other than fraying ties between the White House and Jerusalem was the American ceasefire proposal that one cannot help but think that the Obama put it forward to goad Republicans in Congress into trying to impeach him, as a means to boost his popularity.
TO UNDERSTAND THE LAST THREE WEEKS of fighting, it is necessary to keep in mind only three uncontestable points. First, Hamas started the fighting by firing hundreds of rockets at Israel, and could have stopped it by accepting an early Egyptian ceasefire proposal. It never considered doing so out of a desire to be able to declare “victory,” with a high casualty attack on the IDF or Israeli civilians.
The Federal Aviation Agency handed Hamas its first such “victory” when it banned American carriers from landing in Israel for a 24-hour period last week. Ha’aretz’s Amos Harel charged that the decision, which exacerbated Israelis’ sense of vulnerability and fears of being isolated, was designed by the Obama administration to give Israel a taste of the pressure that might be forthcoming if it does not go along with American demands.
The second point to remember is that Hamas if fully responsible, in both international law and morality, for the lives of its civilians lost in fighting. The number of Palestinian civilian casualties — no matter how wildly exaggerated – tells us nothing about Israeli brutality or lack of sufficient solicitude for Arab lives. Those casualties measure only one thing – Hamas’s complete indifference to the lives of those under their control. MEMRI and other groups have amassed numerous clips of Hamas calling upon citizens to sacrifice themselves by refusing to heed Israeli warnings to vacate combat zones.
To cite the number of civilian casualties as mandating a ceasefire as Obama and Kerry have done is to hand Hamas an important victory in reward for its callousness to its own subjects. It allows Hamas to decide when to start a conflict with Israel and to determine when it will end by ramping up civilian casualties as need be. Rewarded behavior is likely to be repeated behavior.
Why self-inflicted Palestinian casualties should horrify Obama more than the nearly 200,000 killed in Syria over the last three years is hard to say. Daniel Greenfield, however, hinted to a possible answer in an article entitled “Too Bad Assad Isn’t Jewish.”
Finally, Israel has not only the right but the obligation to remove imminent threats to the lives of its citizens. It will not do to keep repeating the mantra of Israel’s right to defend its citizens while denying it any practical means of doing so because the enemy’s deliberately chosen strategy of locating all military assets in highly populated areas inevitably results in many civilian casualties.
A right to self-defense that is purely theoretical but without practical application is of little value. That, however, is all that Obama and Kerry have had to offer us.