Obama Administration Credibility Suffers Again in Middle East Conflict
Will the latest attempt at a 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas hold? Not likely, but at least it will take the attention off the last one that Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to establish, which was met with outrage by Israelis across the political spectrum.
When Kerry visited Israel last weekend to propose yet another ceasefire, he attempted to undermine the Israelis by submitting a draft proposal that completely favored Hamas. Despite the Israelis’ outrage, including unanimous rejection by the Israeli cabinet, the American mainstream media have largely swallowed the Obama administration’s line that there was little substantive difference between the proposal drafted by Secretary Kerry and the one released by the Egyptians earlier this month. This is, quite frankly, untrue.
“Mr. Kerry and his team thought that the document reflected language that could be basically acceptable to Israel because some of it concerning border crossings and security had paralleled the November 2012 Gaza ceasefire and the Egyptian proposal this month,” reported The New York Times. “But rather than treating it as a working draft on which they could comment, American officials assert, the Israelis appeared to think it tilted too far to Hamas’s position and did not do nearly enough to address the security threat to Israel.”
But Haaretz, the newspaper in Israel that is often compared to The New York Times, but “further left,” as The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol noted, absolutely slammed Kerry, citing these highlights from the Haaretz editorial:
The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by [Hamas leader] Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.
The document recognized Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip, promised the organization billions in donation funds and demanded no dismantling of rockets, tunnels or other heavy weaponry at Hamas’ disposal. The document placed Israel and Hamas on the same level, as if the first is not a primary U.S. ally and as if the second isn’t a terror group which overtook part of the Palestinian Authority in a military coup and fired thousands of rockets at Israel…
The secretary of state’s draft empowered the most radical and problematic elements in the region—Qatar, Turkey, and Hamas—and was a slap on the face to the rapidly forming camp of Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who have many shared interests. What Kerry’s draft spells for the internal Palestinian political arena is even direr: It crowns Hamas and issues Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a death warrant…
If Kerry did anything on Friday it was to thwart the possibility of reaching a ceasefire in Gaza. Instead of promoting a ceasefire, Kerry pushed it away. If this failed diplomatic attempt leads Israel to escalate its operation in Gaza, the American secretary of state will be responsible for every additional drop of blood that is spilled.
These words come from the heart of the peace camp in Israel,” added Kristol. “They come from one of President Obama’s strongest defenders in Israel. And they present to Barack Obama this question: How do you ask an Israeli—or a Palestinian—to die for John Kerry’s mistakes? Surely it’s time for John Kerry to go.
Perhaps, but isn’t Kerry doing exactly what Obama wants him to do?
Slate’s Joshua Keating says that he suspects “that some of the anger being directed at Kerry is just deflecting attention from the fact that the two sides have what still seem to be irreconcilable demands.” This is an oversimplification, and equates Hamas with Israel at a time where only one side is deliberately targeting civilians, and is using its own women and children as human shields.
Jen Psaki, the State Department spokesperson, appearing on CNN’s Situation Room, said, “The facts are that the discussion, the informal draft of ideas that the secretary discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu, was based on the Egyptian proposal. The differences were so small, I don’t even think you could fill a note card with them. And that was a proposal [that] not only did the Israelis support two weeks ago, but the cabinet endorsed.”
In other words, “If you like your ceasefire agreement, you can keep your ceasefire agreement.”
Whereas the Egyptian proposal outlined concrete actions that the “Palestinian factions” and Israel must engage in for a ceasefire, the Kerry proposal speaks in broad language about “ending all hostilities” and addressing “all security issues.” No mention is made of Hamas’ underground tunnels, or underground attacks at all.
In contrast, the Egyptian version states that “all Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip” are “to stop all hostilities…from the Gaza Strip towards Israel by air, and sea, and land, and underground, with an emphasis on stopping the firing of rockets and various types of attacks on the border or the targeting of civilians.”
Israel claims that “Kerry’s missive breaks entirely from the Egyptian proposal, which called for an immediate ceasefire after which negotiations would commence, whereas Kerry’s document accepts Hamas’s demands for concessions prior to accepting a ceasefire,” writes Thomas Rose of Breitbart. Indeed, the Kerry “draft” proposal talked about ensuring the “social and economic livelihood” of the Gazans, and the “transfer” of “funds to Gaza for the payment of salaries for public employees.” It also talked about the “United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, the United States, Turkey, Qatar” and others joining in a “major humanitarian assistance initiative to address the immediate needs of the people of Gaza.”
All of this, with no talk about demilitarization or the end of the brutal targeting via underground tunnels. Aren’t there times when defeating an enemy—particularly one that has as one of its stated goals that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it”—is preferable to a ceasefire? How could this not be seen as a capitulation to Hamas? If you like your ceasefire…
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