You knew this was coming: “President Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that he had ‘serious concern’ about the growing number of casualties on both sides in Gaza. In his second phone call with the Israeli leader in three days, Mr. Obama also told Mr. Netanyahu that Secretary of State John Kerry will travel soon to Cairo to press for an immediate cease-fire, a White House statement said. The statement also emphasized the need to protect civilians in both Gaza and Israel.”
On one hand, the president and his secretary of state mouth the platitude that Israel has a right to defend itself. In calling for an immediate ceasefire, Obama ignores the obvious fact that Israel has accepted one but Hamas has not. He also undercuts Egypt (which is giving Hamas no face-saving concessions). Obama denies Israel the right to defend itself by taking out the tunnels, rockets and terrorists who bombard its citizens with rockets. In essence he is saying: We’re with Israel until Hamas racks up enough deaths (by putting people in harm’s way).
Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracy points out that the increase in casualties can’t be a surprise to Obama. “Given the fact that this is close quarters urban combat, it’s hard to believe the administration believed the battle was going to go any other way. Perhaps the pressure from the international community became too much to bear,” he says. “The upshot is that the president is now calling for a ceasefire with his political needs in mind, not Israel’s military objectives.”
Moreover, the readout of the call between Obama and Netanyahu evidences no understanding that the Gazans are responsible for casualties on both sides — Israelis and their own people used as human shields:
President Obama informed the Prime Minister that Secretary of State John Kerry will soon travel to Cairo to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. The President underscored that the United States will work closely with Israel and regional partners on implementing an immediate ceasefire, and stressed the need to protect civilians—in Gaza and in Israel.
We’ve arrived at the point where Egypt is a more savvy and supportive ally of Israel than the United States is. Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute observes that it is likely that “that the Arabs are starting to worry about anger from their own populations because of the news from Gaza. And typically of Mr. Obama, he has no sense of our interests or those of our closest allies. He’s just buffeted around by varying demands from various players.” Once again, he is evidencing “no principles, no vision, no compass, no leadership,” she says.
While Obama rides to the rescue of Hamas, Egypt and Israel understand the stakes. Not only must Hamas be subdued for a good long time, but also its patrons in Tehran need to be brushed back as well. (Just as he’s rescuing Hamas from itself, Obama also decides to extend the “P5+1” talks with Iran — and release billions more in the U.S. sanctions relief.) The message Iran and its networks of terrorists and allies (e.g. Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas) get is that the United States will lean on its only real ally in the region, Israel, in order to stem conflict, even if the advantage inures to Iran and its friends.
In this, Egypt and Israel should remain united. Israel accepted a cease-fire; Hamas can at any time — without conditions. And if Obama is having difficulty getting Hamas to agree to a truce, then he might take it up with its unity government partner (and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas). The latter, so long as it is in league with Hamas, should be held jointly accountable for the carnage as well.