Loose Canons

Irrelevant in War

Obama-Kerry can only sit back and watch.

By 7.14.14

UPI
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Much of the reporting on the fighting between Israeli forces and those of the Hamas terrorist network describes various parts and parties as “increasingly irrelevant.” It’s a term that is generally applied well, but not widely enough. It deserves greater breadth and judgment in its application. There are those who are highly relevant, increasingly irrelevant, and entirely irrelevant. Let’s begin with the last category.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was increasingly irrelevant to the possibilities of renewed war, but with the formation of his “reconciliation” government with Hamas terrorists, Abbas has been demoted to utter irrelevance. He has no power to speak for the Palestinians, no ability to enter into a cease-fire agreement with the Israelis. His powers are a nullity: he can make noises in the international press, which should ignore him. It would, but for the fact that the media would have to admit Abbas’s irrelevance in reaching out to interview the Hamas leaders. It is, for now, more consistent with the media narrative that Palestinians are victims and Israelis evildoers, to keep up the pretense that Abbas is still a leader of his people.

On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is entirely relevant to the conflict. Netanyahu has chosen — correctly, on moral, factual, and strategic grounds — to do as much damage to Hamas in the Gaza Strip as can be done by the highly-capable Israeli military. Netanyahu knows, as Tony Blair admonished Israel this week, that he cannot entirely stamp out Hamas because it exists as a political and ideological entity, not only a terrorist force. But he can destroy vast parts of its networks, its command structure, and its rocket arsenal.

The fact that the Israelis have used the “knock on the roof” tactic (a smoke bomb dropped on a roof to warn of imminent air attack on the building) — and have been dropping leaflets and making phone calls to individual Gazans warning of impending attacks — proves that Israel is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas is reportedly forcing people back into buildings they attempt to flee, but hasn’t been able to stem the tide of people warned by leaflet drops who are crowding the roads out of the northern area of the Gaza Strip.

The Israelis will almost certainly send a large ground force into the leaflet-drop area in the next day. They will attack Hamas assets, especially rocket stockpiles and launchers, and leave when the job is done.

Perhaps the most relevant aspect of the conflict is Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile system. It has reportedly scored hits on over 90% of the Hamas rockets launched at Israeli cities. It is a game changer: no longer are Israeli civilians defenseless against rocket barrages that kill, maim, and destroy property. Iron Dome isn’t perfect — no current anti-missile technology is — but its success does reduce massively the threat of rocket attacks.

Also highly relevant is the launching of a terrorist rocket attack from Lebanon against an Israeli town on the Lebanon border. The attack was perpetrated — apparently — by a low-ranking Hizballah terrorist. From the immediate apologies coming out of the Lebanese Hizballah-dominated government, we can gather that it is learning from the effectiveness of the Iron Dome system. (Hizballah, literally “the Party of God,” is an Iranian-backed terrorist network that has taken many American lives.) That is not to say that Hizballah may not decide to launch its longer-range and far more destructive missiles (provided by Iran) at cities across Israel. It only means that Hizballah is deterred from igniting a much wider war, at least for the moment.

As to the other irrelevancies, the United States and the UN lead the pack. UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon’s pleas for a cease-fire — which at this point would benefit only Hamas — have been rejected outright by Netanyahu. Which brings us to President Obama and his Secretary of State, the comprehensively biased and ineffectual John Kerry.

Last in war, last in peace — and were they a baseball team, last in the National League — Obama and Kerry spent months trying to pressure the Israelis into a peace agreement that would have forced them to retreat to the indefensible pre-1967 war borders and created a Palestinian state. By levying American pressure only on Israel — and placing the blame on the Israelis when the negotiations failed — Obama and Kerry laid the foundation for the current war.

The unequal treatment of the Israelis and the Palestinians emboldened the Palestinians to return to violence after the negotiations predictably failed. Kerry has gone so far as to embrace the rhetoric of the BDS Movement which seeks to cast Israel out of the community of nations, making it a pariah equal to North Korea. Kerry has done so twice. In the first instance, he used the occasion of a negotiation with Iran in Tehran to state last April that Israel risked boycotts if his peace process failed. He later said that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” if the negotiations failed.

Now, all Obama and Kerry can do is watch. They have forfeited the Israelis’ trust and can do no more than whinge from the sidelines.

The most interesting application of the “growing irrelevance” standard applies to the pro-Palestinian elements of the media. Palestinian media spokesmen — including reporters — are finding it harder to be believed. Even on the pro-Palestinian BBC, they are more and more frequently encountering opposition from people who are not willing to be shouted down, and who are capable of telling the world about the three murdered Israeli teenagers whose only crime was to be hitchhiking in the West Bank when they were kidnapped, igniting an increasingly desperate search for them that ended with the discovery of their bodies buried in a shallow grave. The Hamas rocket attacks began around the time the bodies were discovered.

At this writing, the rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip is continuing, and some of the rockets are penetrating the Iron Dome system to land in Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank. The Palestinian rockets now have the range to attack about 80 percent of Israel. Their new M-302 rocket — which is about ten inches in diameter — not only has far greater range, but carries a much larger warhead than the older Qassam and Grad rockets used by Palestinians in the earlier terror campaigns — “intifadas” — against Israel.

The new attacks make an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza a certainty. Netanyahu’s government will have no choice. It may have begun by the time you read this. There will be casualties on both sides, and the Israelis will bear the brunt of the criticism despite the fact that the Palestinian launches of rockets intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

Superpowers, as America once was, don’t suffer the irrelevance Obama has brought us to. We can become relevant again if our next president has the abilities that Obama lacks, such as the ability to tell enemy from friend and act in support of our friends. Israel is a friend left isolated by a president who has determined it deserves to be abandoned.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.