A 72-hour truce was brokered in the Gaza war by Egypt — not by Qatar or Turkey, as the Obama-Kerry brain trust set out to do. The war may be ending, not because of an Obama-Kerry-Qatar-Turkey deal that allows Hamas to win something, but because Israel is defeating Hamas and attaining its military goal, the destruction of the tunnels. The New York Times reports:
Israel appeared to be positioning itself to conclude its military operation in Gaza, with or without a formal cease-fire agreement. With Israeli troops essentially finished destroying Hamas’s tunnels into Israel and having dealt Hamas’s military capacity a significant blow, senior Israeli officials said they were moving troops to defensive positions on both sides of the border. The army — and especially the air force — will respond to attacks and rocket fire by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but the hope, Israeli officials say, is that Gaza fighters will not match rhetoric with action, and that the conflict will slowly wind down and stop.
In short, at this point a final “truce” is irrelevant and unnecessary from Israel’s standpoint. Israel might now enjoy the longest period of tranquility because Hamas was defanged, not because it was rescued by the West. There are lessons here for the president and Congress if they choose to pay attention.
First and foremost, what happens on the battlefield determines what happens in conference rooms; not the other way around. Just as Syrian rebels will not recoup in a conference room in Europe what they lost on the battlefield, Hamas will not win concessions once it is vanquished. The Obama administration likes to invoke the British-Irish conflict as a model for the “peace process,” but, in fact, that dispute — like the Gaza-Israel fight — was ended first by disarmament and then negotiation. Likewise, unless non-jihadi Syrian rebels receive adequate arms and support to gain leverage on the battlefield, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not go, no matter how many times Obama says he must.
In the case of Iran, unless and until it feels pressured militarily (either by the threat of Israeli action or the vigorous disruption of its quest for regional domination), it’s not going to relent at the bargaining table. President Obama’s insistence on diplomacy without leverage in the P5+1 talks won’t succeed any more than Kerry did before Israel achieved its military aims.
In addition, it should be crystal clear even to Kerry that Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians and Emiratis share a common cause with Israel — the defeat of the Iranian menace and elimination of the threat of a nuclear Iran. The more silly deals we make with Iran (e.g. a sunset clause on sanctions and inspections), the more nervous they become. The more places we bug out of, the more convinced these allies become that we have no staying power. If we would embrace these allies, rather than wig them out, and begin challenging Iran (e.g. interdicting arms) and turning up the economic pressure on the mullahs, they might forgo freelancing in ways we find counterproductive (e.g. aiding rebels in Syria). The more we seek regional cooperation in the form of a defense alliance against the Iran-Syria-Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas-Hezbollah network, the more likely we are to change the mullahs’ behavior and to reestablish U.S. influence in the region.
The irony here is that “linkage” — the liberals’ notion that no progress on any Middle East issue could be made without resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — is entirely backward. In cooperating with neighbors against the Iranian threat, Israel attains greater acceptance in the region and makes (through the defeat of terrorists) relations with responsible Palestinian leaders possible. Suffice it to say, Secretary of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton before him wasted a whole lot of time, credibility and stature working the wrong end of the problem (the “peace process”).
It’s unlikely that the administration will learn anything from the Gaza war, since it never admits error or failure. The lessons, however, should not be lost on members of Congress or our Arab partners. Win on the battlefield. Confront the Iranian menace. The rest will fall into place. You will notice that this involves the active engagement of the United States economically, militarily (in the form of military aid to allies, the threat of military action and other counter-terrorism measures) and diplomatically. Solely cutting aid here and there, as isolationists invariably want to do, gets us nowhere. Retrenchment has unnerved and undermined our allies and emboldened our foes. The way to reverse that is for the United States to re-engage. It can start with the aftermath of the Gaza war and new measures to turn up the heat on Iran.