President Barack Obama answered questions about the ongoing war in Gaza on Friday at the White House. He noted that the ceasefire the U.S. had announced with the UN the day before, and that took effect Friday at 8:00 a.m. local time in Gaza, was violated by Hamas. In addition to condemning the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of a third, Obama said that “it’s going to be very hard to put a ceasefire back together again.”
It was clear that, despite his strenuous efforts to substitute diplomacy for military action, and to use the present crisis as a path back to the peace process rather than as an opportunity to demilitarize Hamas by force, Obama may have acknowledged reality. No country, he reiterated, should have to live with rocket attacks and terror tunnels without defending itself–even if the loss of civilian life on the Palestinian side was “heartbreaking.”
The statement was a complete reversal from the day before, when White House spokesperson Josh Earnest indicated that a ceasefire was the administration’s top priority, ahead of any demilitarization of Hamas. President Obama also defended his much-derided Secretary of State, who had pursued a ceasefire at any price. The acknowledgement that a ceasefire is impossible is a diplomatic win for Israel–albeit at a terrible price.