From the beginning of the latest Gaza war, the call for “mutual restraint” and for both sides to “de-escalate” has been preposterous. Up until the day its major offensive was launched, Israel pursued a cease-fire.


Israeli soldiers gathering next to their mobile artillery unit begin their day at a position on the Israel-Gaza border on July 12. (Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press)

Even now, there is only one side escalating and refusing to show restraint. Joel Gulhane, a writer from Daily News Egypt, reports that Hamas rejected a cease-fire proposal from Turkey and Egypt. Likewise, another report observes:

As part of Egypt’s efforts to halt the fighting between Hamas and Israel, Cairo proposed to the Palestinian organization’s leadership and to the Israeli government that they mutually stop the fire for 40 hours, after which a broader ceasefire agreement would be discussed — but Hamas rejected the offer, The Times of Israel learned from Israeli and Hamas sources.

The offer was presented to the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, by Egyptian intelligence officers last week. Abu Marzouk rejected it after a brief consultation with the terror group’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades, the sources said.

Israeli officials said they were open to the possibility of stopping the fighting for an agreed-upon period before negotiating the terms of a longer-term truce.

Egypt does not intend to publicly blame Hamas for Cairo’s failure in its efforts to reach a ceasefire, the sources said, but believes the Islamist organization will bear the responsibility for its refusal. The sources said the Egyptian proposal did not include an outline for a long-term truce, but did include various ideas that different officials – European, Egyptian, and others – were discussing with the goal of securing a ceasefire deal.

Hamas continues to target civilian populations and come up with new demands, such as forcing Egypt to open up the Egypt-Gaza border, presumably to allow even more weapons to flow into Gaza.

If the administration had an ounce of honesty and intellectual integrity, it would say something like this: Hamas is solely responsible for the violence and can stop shelling civilians anytime it wishes. Instead it commits war crimes on a daily basis. No one can rescue Hamas from itself so long as this behavior persists. Israel has every right to work to eliminate the threat to its population.

Then at least Hamas might realize that it can’t continue its barrage and expect the “international  community” to tie Israel’s arms behind it back. However, just as in the negotiations with Hamas’s patron, Iran, over nukes, the administration seems incapable of using leverage against a committed foe, even when circumstance are more favorable to Israel and the United States. The Post reports:

Israeli officials and analysts say there’s little chance that Israel will try to destroy Hamas entirely, given the enormous cost and risk involved. But they say Israel has several key advantages it lacked the last two times it traded blows with Hamas.

Hamas is far more isolated internationally. The Gaza leaders have alienated their former patron in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, by siding with that country’s rebels.

And Hamas lost its closest ally last year when Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist president of Egypt, was ousted and replaced by a military-backed government that sees Hamas much the same way Israel does: as an enemy.

“Egypt is doing just about everything it can to make sure Hamas gets hurt by the Israelis,” said Itamar Yaar, a former top official with Israel’s national security council. “They’ll be happy if Hamas disappears.”

With its weasel words, the United States manages to obscure Hamas’s isolation and once again conveys to Tehran that the United States is unwilling to stick by its allies to defeat Iran’s allies and surrogates. That, in turn, will only feed Iran’s perception that there is no downside to stiffing the West at the nuclear talks.

When it comes to the administration’s foreign policy, we are reminded of Casey Stengel’s rhetorical question: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” Unfortunately, no, and it’s no game but rather a frightful breakdown in U.S. world leadership.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Cokie Roberts hit the nail on the head when she noted that the Gaza conflict is part of a bigger problem, namely “a real absence . . . of American leadership in the region.” She explained that “ you’ve got these rockets going into Gaza from Syria and Iran,” in part because “we haven’t made a strong enough presence in that region to have people be afraid of this country. And so I think there’s a sense that, you know, they can get with anything they want to get away with.” She is dead right when she says that “what you just keep hearing in the diplomatic community, is this – ‘Where is the United States? Where are you?’ . . .[A]nd Syria being the best example. If we had been in Syria a lot sooner, maybe all of us this wouldn’t be happening.”

If only the administration understood as much, we might not have the utter chaos, violence and instability that has rocked the Middle East.

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.