Kerry's Failure Points to Israel's Tough Task

Secretary of State John Kerry has, predictably, failed to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. As of this writing, the Israeli Cabinet is meeting to discuss Kerry's proposal for a seven-day temporary truce. (Update: The Times of Israel reports that the Cabinet unanimously rejected Kerry's terms.) Yet that is merely a gesture of courtesy, because Israel knows that Hamas will reject the terms: that Israeli troops remain in Gaza to complete the task of destroying the terror tunnels Hamas has dug to carry out attacks against Israel.

The fact that Kerry was reduced to offering a "ceasefire" that is limited both in degree and in kind is useful only in that it is a tacit recognition--albeit unconscious--of the strategic reality that Israel is facing. There is no way that Israel can accept the presence of a tunnel network on its border, a system of fortified bunkers that is even more frightening for residents of the south than rocket attacks (for which Iron Dome has become the answer).

Israel's challenge, militarily, is that Hamas is dug in for an intense fight, armed to the teeth and ready to see as many of its own civilians killed as necessary to trigger (further) international outcry and see Israel forced to quit before the job is done. In retrospect, it would have been far better for Israel to have removed Hamas from Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, as it was poised to do in 2009. All that is in the past--but for Hamas it is the best future.

Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., argues that a ceasefire will increase civilian casualties in the long run. That is almost certainly true, and reinforces the point that Kerry's earnest diplomatic intrusions only serve to strengthen Hamas. Kerry's failure won't stop the Obama administration from pressuring Israel in such damaging ways, but at least he has been forced--embarrassed, perhaps--into acknowledging reality.


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