The US is Israel’s most important ally. It has provided us with arms and only last week Congress granted us additional funds to further develop the Iron Dome. It has also used its political clout to deflect hostile resolutions and sanctions at the international level.
But we should be under no illusions. The US- Israel relationship is under great strain. Notwithstanding cryptic statements by both the Israeli and US governments denying the veracity of extracts of a toxic telephone conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barak Obama, Israeli TV Channel One’s highly respected Foreign News Editor, Oren Nahari, adamantly stands by his story, stressing that his source was a reliable senior US official and not the PM’s department.
The president is alleged to have harshly demanded that Netanyahu accept an immediate unilateral cease-fire and informed him that the US was committed to ending the blockade of Gaza. Netanyahu pointed out that the U.S. Administration was undermining the cease-fire by substituting Egyptian mediation with Qatar and Turkey, reminding Obama that the Moslem Brotherhood-aligned Qatar finances and provides arms to Hamas and other terrorist groups including ISIS. He could have also pointed out that Turkey’s demagogic Prime Minister has been stoking hysterical anti-Israeli sentiment and vile anti-Semitism, even demanding that his own Jewish community condemn Israel.
President Obama allegedly responded by telling Netanyahu that he was not in a position to advise America who should act as mediators. Lending credence to this exchange was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who, a few days later, told CNN that the US must cooperate with the Qataris “who have told me over and over again that Hamas is a humanitarian organization”. It is mind-boggling that a Democratic congressional leader can describe as “humanitarian”, a genocidal organization with similar objectives to Al Qaeda, whose charter explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews.
There were also tense exchanges between the PM’s Department and Secretary of State John Kerry, now notorious for his inappropriate comments and contradictory statements.
There have been efforts by both parties to calm the waters. US officials have reiterated their commitment to Israel and re-endorsed Israel’s right to defend itself. President Obama has now, belatedly, followed the lead of the Europeans and includes the demilitarization of Gaza as an issue to be negotiated in conjunction with the lifting of the blockade after cessation of hostilities.
But there is no disputing that President Obama has consciously or otherwise shielded Hamas. This is not a conflict in which the US should act as a mediator or even hint at moral equivalency. This conflict was thrust upon us by a terrorist group promoting a culture of death and martyrdom reflected in the oft quoted Hamas slogan: “Jews wish for life and we wish for a martyr’s death”. We are not confronting an entity seeking independence. It is a conflict between good and evil.
We would have expected our ally to allocate the blame for the casualties to the death merchants of Hamas who target Israeli civilians and propagate casualties amongst their own people who they employ as human shields and then gleefully present to the world as victims of Israeli tyranny.
Instead, President Obama has led the pack in hypocritically supporting our right to defend ourselves whilst blaming us for disproportionate response when we retaliate against the source of the rocket fire whose command posts and missile launching sites are deliberately embedded in UN buildings, schools, hospitals and mosques. The gory scenes of Palestinian casualties highlighted by the global media should have been presented in the context of Hamas responsibility for deliberately orchestrating this nightmare. Instead President Obama’s behavior has merely encouraged Hamas to continue their barbaric strategy in the belief that the US will rescue them from the jaws of defeat and reward them for their commitment to terrorism.
In this context, the clearly synchronized outbursts from the White House, State Department and even the Pentagon, just prior to the announcement of the stillborn 72 hour cease-fire, condemning Israel for civilian casualties, including the shelling of a UNRWA School in Gaza as “indefensible” and “totally unacceptable”, was clearly designed to garner the support of Qatar and Turkey.
The US is aware of the extraordinary lengths, unmatched in any military conflict, which Israel employs to minimize civilian casualties. But innocent civilians die in a war– and obviously more so in a situation in which women and children are employed as human shields and who are deliberately housed in locations together with missiles launchers and command posts. When under fire from terrorists – even if they operate out of schools – Israeli soldiers must return fire or be killed. Beyond that, accidents are inevitable. Just recall the thousands of innocent French civilians who were killed by the allies during the invasion in 1944.
To appreciate the double standards and hypocrisy employed against us, the US should take note of the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed by allied forces in the course of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the carnage in Serbia incurred by NATO’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Belgrade to force Milosevic to step down.
The tragic casualties among Palestinian innocents sadden us all. But it is revolting when the US President expresses more outrage over the deaths of 1500 Palestinians, a large proportion of whom are bloody terrorists, than the butchered 180,000 Syrians in the ongoing civil war.
It is utterly unacceptable to condemn a long standing ally. How can the US justify their focus on the loss of innocent lives without regard to the context and avoid directing the blame to Hamas who exult in both killing Israelis and the killing of their own people whose suffering they openly exploit to discredit Israel and divert attention from their terrorist activities? It brings to mind Golda Meir’s oft quoted quip that peace will only be achieved when our adversaries love their children more than they hate us.
Israel must stand firm. The public shock over the discovery of the myriad of terror tunnels and the extent of the missile range capability – which now covers the entire country – has united the people in a manner reminiscent of the Six Day War. Close to 90% are adamant that Israel must not stop until Gaza is demilitarized or Hamas completely smashed, despite the terrible toll in casualties. Even the dovish Labor Party opposition is demanding this of Netanyahu.
Although it is not reflected in the extraordinary tsunami of global anti-Semitism and the double standards formally adopted by Western countries, there is a clear consensus that this war was imposed on us and there is a greater appreciation of the terrorist nature of Hamas and its contempt for human life.
There is also the radical reversal in the approach of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and most of the Arab League who endorsed the Egyptian ceasefire proposal and whose fear and loathing of the Islamic fundamentalist extremists far exceeds their traditional hatred of Israel. The Egyptians and other moderate Arab states maintain that since his initial Cairo speech in 2009, President Obama has emerged as a supporter of the Moslem Brotherhood – the creator of Hamas – and which they regard, justifiably, as an Islamic fundamentalist terror organization.
They consider the undermining of the Egyptian ceasefire proposals and turning towards Qatar and Turkey – supporters of the Moslem Brotherhood and Hamas – as another example of the US betraying its allies and engaging with its enemies. This was reflected in Kerry’s initial Qatar/Turkey sponsored ceasefire proposal, unanimously rejected by the Israeli Cabinet, which could have been written by Hamas.
As of now, Israel has largely achieved its principal objectives of destroying the tunnels and substantially neutralizing the missile capability. But Hamas remains intact and unless demilitarization is imposed we face inveterate Jihadists who will not relent from their openly expressed objective of destroying us or at least eroding our morale by ongoing terror attacks.
The prime responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens. This is a time for Israel to stand firm and take whatever steps are necessary to defang Hamas and demilitarize Gaza. The responsibility for the fallout on innocent Palestinians rests exclusively on Hamas.
The brazen Hamas breach of the 72-hour ceasefire has led to a temporary global backlash against Hamas. Having neutralized those tunnels which the IDF was able to detect, the ground forces are being redeployed. However PM Netanyahu has made it clear that the operation is not over.
The cabinet must speedily decide on one of two options. It can expand the ground campaign and conquer Gaza, which the majority of the nation would probably initially endorse but which would likely entail massive casualties and provoke concerted international pressure that would probably force us to withdraw unilaterally or face sanctions. It would appear that without ruling out this option, Prime Minister Netanyahu – at least in the short-term – intends to continue degrading the rocket launchers and attacking Hamas from the air, thereby limiting Israeli casualties and providing greater leverage to achieve demilitarization.
The outcome rests largely with the US. If it rewards Hamas for its aggression by seeking to “lift the blockade” or provide them with funds without demilitarization, it will be betraying us. The US will thus have destroyed whatever little global credibility they retain and will be seen as abandoning its long standing ally and groveling to those who support fanatical Islamic terrorism.
Will the US support Israel’s just cause against genocidal terrorism or act as a shield to protect the barbarians at our gates, effectively paving the way for a far more brutal war in the near future?
The writer may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom