Dear Mr. Secretary:
I was struck by your recent observation about the Israel-Hamas conflict: “The world is watching tragic moment after tragic moment unfold and wondering when both sides are going to come to their senses.”
I can only imagine your dismay, in light of the hopes that President Obama and you had placed in Israeli-Palestinian peace, and all of your jet-setting, tongue-flapping and arm-twisting to make it happen. To encourage both sides to come to their “senses,” however, I suggest that not only do they have important roles to play. So, too, do you.
You might begin by recognizing, and speaking openly about, the profound differences between a pluralistic democratic state and a Jew-hating terrorist organization; between America’s most important regional ally and one of America’s fiercest enemies; between a country that shares our values and a genocidal terrorist entity that fully rejects them; and between a government that’s accountable to its people and a brutal dictatorship that isn’t.
You might then stop trying to negotiate cease-fires for the Israel-Hamas conflict with Qatar, which supports and funds Hamas (and with which Washington just inked a huge arms deal), and Turkey, which also supports Hamas and whose increasingly Islamist government routinely accuses Israel of genocide – while leaving Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt out of the room. As you must know, Israel is our ally, the Palestinian Authority is the comparatively moderate Palestinian entity that we prefer over Hamas, and Egypt shares both a border with Gaza and security concerns with Israel about Hamas. And as you might suspect, Israeli officials resent your efforts to impose a cease-fire on them from the outside, as if they themselves don’t know what’s best for their own security.
You might, at the same time, stop crafting cease-fire proposals that give Hamas (remember: a Jew-hating terror group and sworn U.S. enemy) essentially everything it wants while addressing none of the legitimate security concerns of Israel (remember: our key regional ally and fellow democracy that shares our values).
Israel, which rejected the cease fire you cooked up with Qatar and Turkey, couldn’t help but notice that, as the Times of Israel reported, the deal called for easing restrictions on people and goods from Gaza to Israel; expanding fishing zones for Gaza; opening a crossing from Gaza to Egypt; and paying Gazan government employees. Israel could keep its troops in Gaza, but it couldn’t keep destroying Hamas’s threatening tunnels nor conduct any other “military or security” operations to defang Hamas.
Nor could Israel help but notice that the deal called for negotiations in Cairo between Israel and “the Palestinian factions” (presumably including the genocidal Hamas) to craft a longer-term solution that opened more Israel-Gaza border crossings, secured more movement of people and goods through them, improved the economic and social livelihood of Gazans and addressed all security issues.
You see, Mr. Secretary, Israel officials were miffed that, in your deal-making with Doha and Ankara, you addressed Hamas’ demands in detail while offering only vague references to “all security issues.” As you might imagine, they think it reflects your longstanding approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as your recent mocking of Israeli efforts to deliver “pinpoint” attacks on Hamas.
In essence, Mr. Secretary, to set the right tone to address the Israel-Hamas conflict, you might stop equating Israeli humanity with Islamic barbarism – and, most maddening of all, tilting toward the latter.
Lawrence J. Haas, former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.