Commentary Magazine


Will Kerry Hand Hamas a Victory?

Four days into Israel’s ground operations in Gaza casualties are rising on both sides, but the only ones who seems to be cracking under the pressure are President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. While Hamas remains confident that it can bank on international support and Israel’s government seems determined not to kick the can down the road any further with respect to the ongoing threat from the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, the administration may be panicking and about to make yet another mistake that will sow the seeds for more suffering in the future.

Secretary Kerry’s hot-mic moment when he sarcastically mocked Israeli efforts to destroy part of Hamas’s underground tunnel complex in Shejaiya was a telling moment in the conflict. Once back live on the air, Kerry reiterated support for Israel’s right to self-defense. But the comments, along with President Obama’s statement of “serious concern” about the casualties from the operation against the Hamas fortress, was the backdrop for the decision to send the secretary of state back to Cairo today to work on a cease-fire. While in principle that seems like the right thing to do at a moment when the conflict is heating up, it is difficult to escape the impression that Kerry’s mission is more an opportunity for an unforced error by Washington–one that will allow Hamas to emerge from the fray with a victory–than a mission of mercy.

Hamas was correct in its estimation that provoking a ground invasion would produce Palestinian casualties that fueled the fire of anti-Israel sentiment across the globe. Armed with the backing of Qatar, Turkey, and radical Islamists across the region as well as bolstered by the sympathy of international opinion that can always be counted on to damn any Israeli measure of self-defense even when the Jewish state is being assailed by rockets and tunnel infiltrations, Hamas believes it can simply stand its ground. The longer the bloody battle to disarm the Islamist terror movement that rules Gaza goes on, the more Palestinian human shields will die. That, in turn, will raise the pressure on Egypt to open up its border with Gaza and end the political and economic isolation that has hampered the terror group since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo last year.

However, Hamas may have, for once, underestimated the resolve of both Israel’s government and its people. Prime Minister Netanyahu was slow to order the ground operation despite being given ample reason to send in troops once Hamas started launching hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities. He also gave Hamas ample opportunities to stand down and accept cease-fires that the Islamists consistently rejected. But once the die was cast, the prime minister seems to be serious about not repeating the mistakes his country made in the recent past whereby it gave Hamas the impression that there was nothing it could do that would be enough to prompt a decision to take out the group’s terror infrastructure. The methodical offensive appears to be doing serious damage to Hamas’s capacity to inflict terror on Israel. If it is allowed to continue, there is a chance that Israel will finally land a lethal blow against the group that is the real obstacle to peace in the region.

Just as important as Netanyahu’s resolve is the reaction of Israel’s people to the crisis. It is likely that Hamas believed Israelis too fearful of paying the high price in blood–both in terms of its own soldiers and Palestinians–to significantly impact the strategic equation along the Gaza border. But so far, despite the frayed nerves of people tired of having to run for bomb shelters and horrified by the loss of life in the fighting, support for the government appears to be strong. A visit to Israel’s southern region showed me that despite the best efforts of Hamas, life is going on even in the areas that have been most affected. Moreover, the faces of the busloads of Israeli reservists who are being shipped into the area of the border showed that the country’s citizen soldiers remain committed to doing what must be done to ensure their country’s safety. If Hamas thought Netanyahu was too politically weak to make hard decisions or that Israelis would turn on him and succumb to foreign pressure, it may have made a crucial mistake.

But that resolve is not shared by Israel’s American ally. Though nothing would do more to pave the way for a renewed peace process with the Palestinians that both Obama and Kerry have ceaselessly advocated than the weakening or the elimination of Hamas, neither man appears to have the intestinal fortitude to unwaveringly back an operation that would do just that. For months Washington has been sending mixed messages to the region that have encouraged the Islamists to believe the U.S.-Israel alliance was weakening as blame for the collapse of Kerry’s negotiations was placed solely on Israel despite the fact that it was the Palestinian Authority’s decision to embrace Hamas that finally ended that fool’s errand. Moreover, by constantly carping about Israel’s counter-attacks after Hamas launched the current war, the administration has encouraged the terrorists to believe that the U.S. won’t let them be defeated.

Thus Kerry’s decision to fly to Cairo to work on a cease-fire is exactly the news that Hamas wanted to hear. They have already made it clear they don’t care how many Palestinians die in the conflict they provoked so long as the end result grants them the political concessions from Egypt that will further their cause. They know that if the U.S. was not prepared to pressure the Egyptian government to throw Hamas a bone or to force Israel to stop operations aimed at eliminating their rocket arsenal and blowing up their underground fortresses, there was no reason for Kerry to come to the region. A cease-fire that would grant Hamas no political victories didn’t require the personal presence of the secretary in Cairo. But by bending to the usual hypocritical international outcry against any Israeli attempt to take out the terror nest on their border, the administration is signalling that it won’t let Netanyahu take out Hamas or allow Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi to stand his ground about sealing his country’s border against infiltration from an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood he deposed.

Were Obama and Kerry prepared to show the kind of resolve that Netanyahu and Sisi have exhibited it would be very bad news indeed for Hamas and its foreign cheerleaders that continue to nurture delusions about Israel’s destruction. Instead, the U.S. appears to be as clueless as ever about the stakes involved in this fight and cracking under the pressure generated by the Palestinians sacrificed by Hamas on the altar of their jihadist mission. If so, the price paid by both Israelis and Palestinians in the future will be considerable.

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9 Responses to “Will Kerry Hand Hamas a Victory?”

  1. TIKI SHAPIRA says:

    I have a feeling that dumb & dumber underestimate the resolve of Netanyahu & el-Sisi to clean house in Gaza!

  2. MARK POLIS MD says:

    If it’s on the world stage and it’s stupid then you can count on Oblamer and Lurch to be right in on it.

  3. IAN LANE says:

    I hope that Israel will not capitulate in the face of American stupidity. I have thought for years that the Israelis could and should end the terror reign of Hamas once and for all by allowing themselves to win the several Gaza wars that have occurred since they withdrew.


    I agree with the article. Israel needs some serious help in the public relations department. Though much of hte world is inventerately anti-Jewish, not all of it is. And some people have reasons other than love of Jews to support Israel, such as love of the West and freedom.

    Israel needs to explain their actions much, much better.



    Analysis Of Gazans Killed So Far In Operation Protective Edge 7-21-14

    This article is cross posted and republished courtesy of the Israellycool blog. WITH TABLES AND GRAPHS,

    Some of the claims I am seeing online include how the vast majority of Gazans killed are civilians, and how Israel is deliberately targeting them.

    Regarding the latter, we all know this is nonsense – if Israel wanted to kill civilians it would carpet bomb Gaza. It is precisely because we want to avoid civilian casualties, that we opt for pinpoint strikes and ground operations, at risk to our soldiers’ lives.

    But what about the first claim? Are the vast majority civilians?

    Without having all of the terrorist obituaries or intel to prove who was a terrorist, this is hard to analyze. But what we do have is a list of the names and ages of those killed so far, which does provide us with some insights.

    An anonymous Israellycool reader and her family spent countless hours going over this list from Al Jazeera – a media outlet that can’t be accused of slanting things Israel’s way. Their main findings regarding the casualties to date are as follows:

    As you can see, over 80% of Gazans killed so far have been male, with almost half of these males being in the 18-28 age group. One can imagine many of these being “combatants.” A further 20% of these males are between 29 and 48, an age group one could envisage may also contain many Hamas members.

    In other words, these figures bring into question how many of those killed were really innocent civilians.

    What these figures also indicate is if Israel was indiscriminately killing Gazans, the representation in terms of gender and age would be broader (with relatively more children killed than the approx 18%, considering nearly 50% of Gazans are under the age of 14).

    Update: Even way back in 2008, Israellycool linked to Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal who noticed Palestinian sources have always reported far too many male casualties to back up the claim of indiscriminate killing by the IDF, let alone the crazy charge of deliberately targeting civilians.

  6. H SCHRANZ says:

    If we do not get a cease-fire soon, Israel’s reputation will never survive the deaths of 100’s of Palestinians. It does not matter who is at fault, and who started what, and who is right or wrong, Israel cannot survive the death of 1000’s of certainly-innocent Gazans.
    If Hamas has any sense,they will give Kerry a cease-fire, and Gazans will be handsomely rewarded for it. That is what WE need. Plan B is we got to unilaterally cease fire, and Kerry will give us more US goodies. Our reputation and future cannot survive what history will view as a massacre.
    Do not fantasize that a hard line will win us anything permanent. It will not work. be realistic, we cannot survive without the good will of the US, no matter how many “high-ranking” terrorists die. Hamas can fill its ranks within minutes.
    Look, we want something from the US–we got to make nice to Kerry, and we will be reasonably rewarded.


    Like many other readers who closely follow world events, and particularly those events in the Middle East involving Israel, I knew about the tunnels in the Philadelphia Corridor, a kilometer or two width of land separating Gaza and Egypt under which scores of tunnels had been dug to smuggle good and weapons–including rockets–from Egypt to Gaza. Those tunnels were frequently referred to by the Israeli government during and after the occupation of Gaza, widely reported in the English/online versions of Israeli newspapers, as well as in the American media. I may be mistaken, but I do not recall reading anything about a tunnel, much less scores of tunnels, dug under the Gaza-Israel border by Hamas terrorists and surfacing in Israel, until the kidnapping and return of Gilad Shalit. And even then, in the wake of Shalit’s kidnapping, the Israeli government and press talked only about one tunnel, the “Shalit Tunnel.” Only after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths and during the heavy Hamas rocket attack did the Israeli government talk about the complex of terrorist tunnels running beneath the Gaza-Israel border. And only then, after the Israeli government released a good deal of information about the quantity and need to destroy the Gaza-Israel tunnels, did I read, that deep under the center of Gaza city, Hamas has created an underground city for the rockets and weapons meant to exterminate Israel, and for the protection and comfort of Hamas’s terrorist leaders. The heart of this underground city, Israeli reporters write, is known as the Hamas “War Room”; the command center for Hamas’s war to obliterate Israel. Moreover, according to Israeli and other public sources, the Israeli government, and other powers, are not certain that they want to destroy the Hamas “War Room,” Hamas’s military nerve center, along with Hamas’s leaders, for fear that there will be no one in authority to talk to when it becomes time to talk to Hamas. I have not gone to fight and risk my life for Israel; and a mere supporter may not have the right to criticize an Israeli government. But how could this have happened? How could a government, how could this government, how could this Israeli government, allow an enemy sworn to its destruction employ and succeed with this ancient, crude, and highly effective military strategy?


    Words like clueless, incompetent,and inept fail to describe what is taking place. That would be giving the Administration a very undeserved pass.

    The Administration has highly competent people working for it, who are very well aware of the consequences of their actions. What they are trying to execute is a shift in policy, from existing allies and priorities, to new ones. So far, they seem to have alienated everyone.

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