White House wants to resurrect the failed 2012 Hamas-Israel cease-fire agreement: Why?

July 27

From the White House Press Office: “Building on Secretary Kerry’s efforts, the President made clear [in a phone call to Israeli PM Netanyahu] the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”

I’m really at a loss as to what President Obama is thinking. First, in 2012, Hamas was in a much better position than it is today. Then, it had a powerful ally in Egypt, and an ongoing Israeli military conflict with Hamas risked the fragile peace between Israel and Egypt. Now, Hamas is Egypt’s enemy, and Egypt would like nothing better than to see Israel crush Hamas. Then, Hamas could easily resupply itself through smuggling tunnels from Egypt. Now, if Israel degrades Hamas’s military capabilities, including destroying its remaining tunnels into Israel it will be extremely difficult for Hamas to rebuild them.

Second, how could the White House talk about a ceasefire that “leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.” After all, the November 2012 ceasefire agreement obviously didn’t lead to a permanent cessation of hostilities, so why should a new agreement based on that agreement lead to one?

So, given that (a) Israel is in a much better strategic position, and Hamas a much worse one, than in 2012; and (b) the 2012 cease-fire agreement only lasted a year and half, why would the president demand that Israel immediately stop fighting with the goal of reviving the agreement from 2012?

Moreover, the Israeli cabinet already unanimously voted down this proposal when Secretary of State Kerry proposed it. Reasserting the proposal, as what sounds like a demand from the president, is creating a confrontation between Jerusalem and Washington that will leave Israelis suspicious of U.S. intentions at least through the end of the Obama administration, killing any chance that Israel will accept U.S. security assurances regarding any proposed peace deal with the P.A. So again, why?

UPDATE: John Podhoretz: “It’s very possible everything the president said was disingenuous; he knows Israel isn’t going to accept an immediate ceasefire, in part because Hamas won’t either and in part because the latest Channel 10 poll says an astounding 89 percent of Israelis want the war to continue. So he gets to be for something nice without having to deal with the consequences of its actually happening…. But it’s also very possible the president isn’t being disingenuous…. In which case, he is personally intervening against an American ally with a legitimately elected and deeply fractious coalition government on behalf of a terrorist organization.”

I disagree a bit with John. If the president is being disingenuous, he is still causing damage. Hamas can’t possibly accept a deal worse than that publicly offered by POTUS. And Israel, it would seem, can’t possibly accept the deal offered by the president. If that’s right, than Obama may ultimately be responsible for increased bloodshed.

David Bernstein is the George Mason University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA.
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