U.S.-Israeli and U.S-Egyptian relations are so bad that the United Nations seems constructive by comparison to those (including Israel and Egypt) looking to prevent a Hamas “victory.” While Secretary of State John Kerry shows up uninvited and largely unwelcome – one foreign policy wag termed the objection to an U.S. secretary of state as “stunning but not surprising” — the United Nations at least for now is supporting the Egyptian no-conditions truce proposal. The Jerusalem Post reported, “Jordan circulated to the UN Security Council on Tuesday a draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Hamas-dominated coastal enclave. It welcomes an Egyptian-led bid to end fighting between Israel and Hamas terrorists and ‘condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.’”
While the resolution — this is the United Nations, remember — included the obligatory moral equivalence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually wrung some helpful language out of the U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon:
Ban arrived Tuesday afternoon and went immediately to the IAF headquarters in Tel Aviv for his meeting with Netanyahu.
Before the meeting, at the press conference with Ban, the prime minister said that the international community must take a “clear stand” and hold Hamas accountable for consistently rejecting various cease-fire proposals, and for “starting and prolonging this conflict.”
Ban expressed understanding for Israel’s position, saying that no country would accept rockets raining down on its civilians, and that all countries and parties had an international obligation to protect civilians.
The UN position was clear, he said: “We condemn strongly the rocket attacks, and these must stop immediately.”
Furthermore, he said, “we condemn the use of civilian sites, schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities for military purposes.” These comments contrasted starkly with remarks he made Sunday in Doha, after meeting with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiya.
My, oh my. The Arab League was also on board with the Egyptian-U.N. proposal. For now, Kerry has no choice but to support the Egyptian position as well. (One shudders to think what the terms would have been had Kerry started the bidding.)
That, however, did not preclude the Obama administration from getting its licks in and handing Hamas a temporary victory. The Federal Aviation Administration for 24 hours banned flights in and out of Israel. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center remarked to me, “If the State Department has concluded that the situation at Ben Gurion Airport is so serious that the FAA barred U.S. carriers from landing there, then the Israelis had better redouble their efforts to eliminate all of Hamas’s military capabilities. As such, we trust that Secretary Kerry will calibrate the timing of his efforts to urge Israel to agree — for a fourth time— to a cease-fire with Hamas— one that reflects the apparent draconian reality on the ground.” Indeed. And in a master stroke of hypocrisy Kerry flew into Ben Gurion, arriving safe and sound. (Israel media report the government may open another airport in Eliat, far from the rocket barrages. They also report some airlines will resume service to Ben Gurion on Thursday.)
Not only did the FAA ban all flights in and out of Israel for 24 hours (somewhat understandable given a rocket six miles from Ben Gurion airport) but also a travel warning applicable to the entire country was announced, although rockets and fighting affect only discrete areas of Israel. (The administration can’t manage to impose any bans or embargoes on Russia, but it moves with lightning speed when Israel is concerned, and thereby puts economic pressure on Israel to let up.)
Noah Pollak of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel remarked, “So why did the State Department issue this warning not when long-range rocket fire was a more serious threat, but only yesterday, days after such fire had decreased sharply, and coinciding with Kerry’s trip to the region? The answer may be that the Obama administration is using the travel warning to exert pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire. It could be a shot across the bow – a deniable but very real signal to Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Obama administration’s support for Israel’s operation in Gaza has come to an end, and that there will be consequences for its continuation. And at the same time the State Department was delivering a blow to the Israeli tourism industry, Kerry was showing solidarity with Gaza by announcing a $47 million aid package.”
Even the New York Times sounded skeptical. (“Ephraim Sneh, a retired general and deputy defense minister of Israel, was sharply critical of the decision to suspend flights. It was a dream of the militant Hamas leadership ‘to disconnect Israel from the outer world,’ he told reporters on a conference call.”)
The administration’s bully boy tactics and condescending rhetoric telling Israel to look out for civilians (as if they are not already) are of little consequence. Israel — this time with support from Egypt and others — will do what it must. It is learning the lesson of all American allies these days — take care of yourself, for the United States sure won’t be with you when it matters.