Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
There is something fundamentally flawed in U.S. policy towards the Gaza confrontation.
The United States, correctly, is very concerned about loss of human life as well as with Israel’s safety and security. At the same time, it seems to ignore the behavior of Israel’s opponents on precisely these points.
Israel does bear the responsibility for most of the civilian casualties and collateral damage in Gaza, but it certainly did everything an attacking force conceivably could do to persuade innocent non-combatants to leave targeted military areas. Furthermore, Hamas consistently used human shields to provide cover for their own rocket launchers often based in school, hospitals, and playgrounds.
President Obama is calling on Israel to respect humanitarian values and the high costs that the Palestinians have suffered during the conflict, but he appears totally unwilling to challenge Hamas’ public and consistent abuse of civilians. It would seem that while calling for humanitarian considerations to be paramount and for a ceasefire to be agreed upon, it would behoove the United States to ratchet up the pressure on Hamas for its persistent disregard of human life.
Similarly, the Western powers as well must call out those countries and forces that give aid and encouragement to Hamas. It is time to stop tolerating and disregarding the outrages emanating from Turkish officials analogizing Israel with Hitler and preparing another Gaza Armada. It is time to blow the whistle on the farcical behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. It is time to develop constructive strategies to present directly to Hamas to demilitarize Gaza.
When millions of dollars of humanitarian assistance in the form of concrete (cement) destined for schools, hospitals, and housing ends up in building tunnels to infiltrate and attack a sovereign state, it is past time to demand accountability and not just niceties.
At the same time, Israel has benefitted enormously from the effectiveness of the Iron Dome anti-missile rocket shield. It would be hard to imagine the nature of this war were it not for the fact that Israel had the defensive capabilities to protect its citizens which were jointly developed and manufactured by American-Israeli creativity and ingenuity. In conjunction with the defensive protection afforded Israel through the use of Iron Dome, one recognized how Hamas’s rocket barrage consistently has been totally random in its direction towards mostly civilian, non-security targets, while Israel consistently addressed military objectives.
U.S. policy in regard to trying to bring the parties to a ceasefire has been totally one-sided and it is a mystery as to why this has been the case. Aside from tactical jockeying for one-upmanship, there seem to be clear necessities which must be settled for this war to conclude without it being the prelude to another of more of the same between Gaza and Israel.
While there is no doubt that humanitarian needs must be met, assistance resumed, and Gaza citizens able to return to their homes in safety, Israel must have assurances as well. These too seem to be fairly straight forward: no more rockets, the elimination of tunnels, and international intercession to demilitarize Gaza.
There is no doubt that Israel and Egypt as well as the world community can facilitate Hamas’s needs. The question is who and whether the international community has the ability to demand Hamas compliance with Israel’s requirements. Qatar and Turkey cannot possibly be holding so many cards that they out trump Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Israel, all of whom want Hamas reigned in.
Here enters perhaps the most delicate of issues: President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu do not like each other or trust each other’s political intentions. This is not a question of their commitment to each other’s nation or their peoples. Both sides suspect ulterior motives from each other. As a result, negotiations are cumbersome at best. In addition, Secretary Kerry continues to lose credibility as an effective diplomat and interlocutor. His lack of sophistication in these negotiations has been appalling.
Finally and by no means least, the United States and the world community bear total responsibility for permitting this confrontation to fan the flames again of anti-Semitism. This is not anti-Israel feeling — throughout the region, in Europe, and even in the United States — but old fashioned anti-Semitism. Again, is there no moral outrage and indignation? Has the world come so far that it has totally lost its moral compass? Is the 100th anniversary of the “Guns of August” distracting the world from the failures of the Great War’s post-war debacle?