In the photo, Daniel Tragerman stands proudly next to his Lego tower. He wears a blue-and-white Lionel Messi jersey, dark shorts and sandals; brown bangs tickle his forehead, and he looks at us with a charming half-smile. He seems, like most four-year-olds, soft, innocent and irresistibly huggable.
But neither his parents nor grandparents will hug Daniel again, for he died Friday when a mortar shell from Gaza, the terrorist-run enclave, exploded near his home at Kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel. Sirens had warned residents of rocket fire, but Daniel’s little legs couldn’t carry him to the shelter in time.
“You are the love of my life, the perfect child, every parent’s dream: smart, sensitive, ahead of his age group and beautiful, so beautiful,” his grieving mother, Gila Tragerman, said at his funeral. “We always said that you’d be the youngest world leader who would bring peace; so, if not in life then, we hope, in death.”
Daniel’s murder came just days after the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) released a video showing its beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, an event that shook America and focused Washington’s attention on how to address the group’s growing threat to U.S. interests at home and abroad.
An Israeli boy; an American man. The murders may not seem related, but we should see them through the same lens. That is, U.S. policymakers who are weighing how best to address the Islamic State threat might better appreciate Israel’s challenge in addressing Hamas-driven terror each and every day.
For America, after all, the Islamic State is still a distant threat, albeit one that will grow if we allow the savage group to cement its rule across a broad swath of Iraq and Syria, creating a new safe haven for terror. It is conquering territory, forcing Christians to convert to Islam and slaughtering those who refuse, enslaving women and girls, destroying Iraq’s cultural sites, and threatening to take its battle directly to the United States. It posts pictures of its dead victims and videos of its beheadings.
Though President Barack Obama has sent more than 1,000 U.S. troops to Iraq and ordered almost 100 airstrike on Islamic State targets, he hasn’t yet approved a robust campaign to defeat the group. As he mulls his next move, U.S. experts debate how big of a threat the group presents and when it will likely target America.
Israel has no such luxury to mull. Hamas, which remains committed to destroying Israel and killing Jews, already has launched thousands of rockets into Israel, killed or captured its soldiers and civilians, built sophisticated tunnels to cross its borders, and broken the ceasefires that others brokered.
Hamas put its savagery on full display in recent days. Besieged after Israel killed three senior commanders and targeted the commander-in-chief of its military wing, Hamas shot 18 Palestinians on Friday that it suspected of collaborating with Israel – shooting seven of them near a Gaza City mosque as midday prayers were ending and killing 11 others later. It reportedly killed four more on Saturday.
Even the Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank and recently agreed to a coalition government with Hamas, is fed up, perhaps due to a report from Israel’s security service, Shin Bet, that Hamas planned to start a third intifada and seize control of the West Bank.
This is, and always has been, Hamas – a terrorist offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, collaborator with other genocidal groups, autocratic ruler of Gaza, enemy of Israel and hater of Jews. It seeks victory over Israel, not peace with it, and it’s as committed to its goals as the Islamic State is to its own.
Grappling with the latter, Washington seems to recognize the nature of its new adversary. Obama calls the Islamic State threat a “cancer” that must be removed, while Vice President Joe Biden wrote recently, “There is no negotiating with [the Islamic State]. We have seen its appalling murders … its cruelty and its fanaticism.”
True. But, for Israel, so too is Hamas a “cancer” that must be removed. So, too, is there “no negotiating” with it.
Perhaps, then, as they witness Israel’s war with Hamas, U.S. policymakers will stop holding the Jewish state to a higher standard than any other nation when it comes to protecting civilian life. Perhaps they’ll stop urging Israel to pursue “proportional responses,” eschew attacks on civilian sites in which Hamas operatives hide, and retain a “path to peace” even with its genocidal enemies.
Facing a new monstrous threat, perhaps Washington will better understand what Jerusalem must do to address its own.
Lawrence J. Haas, former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.