The Wall Street Journal headline reads: “U.S. Push for Gaza Truce Yields Little.” It could easily say: “From Netanyahu to Livni, Israel Decries Kerry Plan.” (Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, a favorite of American liberals, told Secretary of State John Kerry that his plan was “completely unacceptable. . . [and] would have strengthened extremists in the region.”
This headline also would have worked: “PA and Israel Agree Kerry Plan Stinks.” As the Jerusalem Post reported, “Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Sunday launched scathing attacks on US Secretary of State John Kerry and accused him of working to appease Qatar and Turkey at the expense of Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The officials also criticized Kerry for failing to invite representatives of Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to last weekend’s meeting in Paris to discuss a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.”)
An alternative might also have been something like: “Top Democrat Blasts Kerry Approach.” Indeed, on “Meet the Press,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) candidly stated, “Once Israel is allowed to take care of the rockets and the tunnels, I believe there can be a real, lasting ceasefire, and eventually peace in Gaza. Because when Hamas doesn’t have the ability to militarily attack Israel, as it has done repeatedly over the years, then it will lose its weight. The Palestinian people will bring in a more moderate group, and the humanitarian aid and the economic aid will be used to help them, not to build tunnels, not to pay for rockets. So it’s really almost impossible to have peace as long as Hamas is in control of Gaza. A ceasefire should happen, but it should happen without pressuring Israel to avoid getting rid of the rockets and tunnels. That’s Hamas’s trump card.” (“Kerry Playing ‘Hamas’s Trump Card’ ” would have been catchy.)
Kerry is back home now (to the relief of our allies in the region). But the mainstream media should at least report accurately how disastrous his trip was. Instead, they prefer the moral equivalent-friendly meme that “violence continues” or even less accurately, the “war is at a stalemate.” (Israeli is crushing Hamas; it’s Kerry’s meddling that is going nowhere.)
In fairness to Kerry, however, the problem, as it always is in this administration, is his boss, who seems intent on saving Hamas. In a readout of his call Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House recounted, in part: “Building on Secretary Kerry’s efforts, the President made clear 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. The President reaffirmed the United States’ support for Egypt’s initiative, as well as regional and international coordination to end hostilities. The President underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel’s security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority.” It’s not clear whether Obama is trying to repair the damage Kerry did by adopting the Qatar-Turkey plan and undercutting Egypt’s efforts, but in any case what is missing is: 1) Any recognition that the civilian casualties stem from Hamas using the population as human shields and their homes as armories; 2) the need to destroy the tunnels and demilitarize Gaza; and 3) the need for the PA to separate itself from Hamas.
Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies observes, “With tempers flaring across the region — including Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who is irate over being excluded from the US-led process — President Obama is now trying to dictate an end to the conflict before more damage to American credibility can be done.” It is too late for that, I suspect. Israel is going to continue its essential task of destroying Hamas’s war machine. Once more the Obama administration is the odd man out, impotent and widely disparaged.
If all of this was not enough of a concern, consider the implications for the Iran nuclear talks. If Kerry and Obama are so anxious to rescue Hamas from destruction, imagine the lengths they will go to spare Iran from more sanctions or from exposure to a military attack. There, as in Gaza, the administration’s aim seems to now be to give Iran enough to keep the talks going endlessly. To end the talks or admit failure would require Obama to do something and to stand firm with Israel and the Sunni Arab states. That, if the Gaza experience is any guide, is very unlikely to occur.