Today, the Jerusalem Post reports that Israel has agreed to postpone any ground invasion of the Hamas-held Gaza Strip until cease-fire efforts can proceed further. This is a ground shift in Israeli policy with regard to Hamas; Israel has long stated that it will not negotiate with Hamas.
Why would Israel shift its position? It seems clearer and clearer that Israel is receiving behind the scenes pressure from the United States.
We already know that the so-called Quartet – the United Nations, the United States, Russia, and the European Union – is pressuring Israel not to clean out the hornet’s nest that is Gaza. “We don’t need another upheaval,” said Quartet Middle East envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, completely ignoring the fact that without an upheaval in Gaza, Hamas will continue to build up its rocket arsenal and possible weapons of mass destruction for another assault on Israeli civilians. Today, the Council of the European Union came out with the bizarre position that, while Israel has a right to defend itself, Israel should cease all operations.
But the Quartet’s pathetic attempts to stop Israel from defending herself are nothing new. What is new is the mixed messages being sent by the American administration. Even as President Obama tells the largely pro-Israel American public that Israel has the right to self-defense, all his moves behind closed doors have undermined that message.
It began with pusillanimous public statements. Even as he said that Israel had a right to self-defense, Obama said that it would be preferable if there could be a solution found without Israel “ramping up” its military actions.
Then, Obama reached out to the Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who has been stumping openly for war with Israel (on Friday, Morsi said, “If I see the homeland in danger, I won’t hesitate to take unusual steps”; Morsi has also sent his prime minister to Gaza in solidarity with Hamas). Obama actually went so far as to “commend” Egypt’s “efforts to de-escalate the situation and expressed his ohope that these efforts would be successful.” Obama did that the same day that Morsi issued his threat to Israel.
As if that weren’t enough, Obama reached out to Turkish prime minister and Islamist Tayyip Erdogan, who has stood behind Hamas for years (Erdogan stood behind that terrorist Gaza flotilla, for example). Even as Erdogan claimed that Israel “shot … innocent people in Gaza for reasons they fabricated” and claimed solidarity with “our brothers in Gaza and their just cause,” Obama said that the two leaders “shared their concerns about the dangers to the civilian populations on both sides and expressed their common desire to see an end to the violence.”
This is the language of moral equivalence. And it’s the language of a president who wants to stop Israel short, before they accomplish their mission of destroying the Hamas threat in the Gaza Strip. There’s a reason the State Department has openly refused to state whether an Israeli ground assault on Hamas would be considered part of the Israeli right to self-defense.
The only question now is whether Israel will bow to American pressure. The fact that Israel is postponing a more serious action in Gaza – despite there being no on the ground change in leadership in Gaza – is a bad sign. In 2006, Israel abandoned the Gaza Strip; shortly thereafter, Hezbollah began showering rockets on Israel’s north, forcing Israel to send in ground troops. The international community stopped Israel short then, and Hezbollah remains in control of the region.
The same may now happen with Hamas. With each Western-forced shutdown of Israeli defensive action against terrorists, the terrorists are emboldened. Whether it’s drones over Israel from the north or rockets over Israel from the south, forcing Israel to stop short before finishing off terrorist groups only makes terrorist groups stronger. Obama should know that. But thus far, it seems that he’s following the anti-Israel playbook written by Egypt, Turkey, Russia, and the European Union, even as he mouths the right slogans.