In a conference call with some 4000 member of Christians United for Israel, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer and close adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an impassioned plea for perspective and the necessity “to restore moral clarity to the debate.”
He began by putting the attacks in perspective. “In the last 3 days Hamas has fired 400 rockets at Israel,” he said. “Six million Israelis have had to rush to bomb shelters. That’s 3/4 of our population. That’s the equivalent of 200 million people in the United States.” Several times he implored the pro-Israel group’s members to consider what the U.S. would do under the same circumstances.
“The goal of the operation is to end the rocket attacks and restore quiet not just for a day, not just for a week, but for a good long time, ” he explained. He emphasized that Israel did try to offer a truce but was rebuffed. Forty-thousand troops have been authorized to be called up and 20,000 have already been called. “That is important because the prime minister needs to have all the options in front of him.” He also stressed how essential the country’s “Iron Dome” defense system is, not only because it protects Israeli lives but because it allows “the prime minister time and space to prosecute the war.” He deemed Iron Dome “an unbelievable success,” indicating that the success rate of 85 percent in the last Gaza conflict is now even higher.
The bulk of his call was devoted to shredding the moral equivalence language that has crept into the U.S. debate. (And, although he did not say so, it also appears embedded in President Obama’s psyche. News reports tell us that in his belated call with Netanyahu Obama was back to calling for restraint and protection of life from “both sides.”) “Hamas deliberately targets our civilians. The more killed the greater the success. For us, it is an operational failure if an innocent is killed, ” he said. He also pointed out that Hamas aims to kill its own people. Its interior minister today, Dermer related, “called on the people of Gaza to ignore our warnings” that are given out by leaflet, phone and text to try to evacuate civilians. He said, “I’m not aware of a single military in the history of warfare that has taken as much care to protect its opponents’ civilians.” Again he asked, ” How would American react to such a threat?” Under the circumstances, he said, Israel has been incredibly restrained.
Interestingly, he dwelled at length on the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who yesterday accused Israel of “genocide.” He said, “It’s an absolute outrage. We’re a people who understand genocide. The world leaders should demand he retract that.” Moreover, world leaders he said “must make a clear demand of President Abbas: He needs to end this pact with a terrorist organization.” Ironically, it is Abbas’s partner Hamas whose charter calls for genocide against Israel and indeed against Jews all over the world.
Asked about Iran, Dermer stressed that Tehran has given Hamas ample financial aid and smuggled in long-range missiles. Another terrorist group in Gaza, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is a direct subsidiary and “gets its orders from Iran,” he said. In the talks with the West, “Iran is trying to leave itself with the capability to build nuclear weapons.” It doesn’t need to have that capability immediately, but Dermer warned that “they want to leave themselves parked very close to where they can get nuclear weapons in the future.” Dismantling sanctions while keeping its nuclear program for future use is its goal. He said he “hoped” the P5 +1 would stand firm and that it would be a horrible error to dismantle the sanctions while leaving Iran’s nuclear program essentially intact. Dermer did not sound confident that Obama, who reportedly discussed the talks with Netanyahu, would in fact hold firm.
On the subject of aid to the PA, he was careful not to suggest a complete or permanent cutoff. (The reality is that there is no aid currently flowing to the PA and none has been requested.) Dermer said there are already laws on the books against funding terror groups and was certain after discussions with Congress that if the PA remained aligned with Hamas it would “have serious consequences for funding in the future.”
Dermer is a capable and articulate defender of Israel. But he plainly is fighting a two-front war. At home Israel is battling Hamas, and in a larger sense, its patron in Tehran. But he is also fighting the moral vacuity in the West and the administration’s seeming desire to ignore the nature of the Iranian regime. Frankly, that may be a harder fight than the military one in Gaza.