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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mark Landler, "U.S. Diplomacy on Gaza Has Little Sway on Israel": In fact, Obama Has "Little Sway" Anywhere

The impotence of Barack Obama, the first invertebrate ever to occupy the Oval office, is the topic of a telling New York Times article entitled "U.S. Diplomacy on Gaza Has Little Sway on Israel" ( by Mark Landler. Landler begins by observing:

"When the State Department condemned Israel’s strike on a United Nations school in Gaza on Sunday, saying it was 'appalled' by this 'disgraceful' act, it gave full vent to what has been weeks of mounting American anger toward the Israeli government.

The blunt, unsparing language — among the toughest diplomats recall ever being aimed at Israel — lays bare a frustrating reality for the Obama administration: the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has largely dismissed diplomatic efforts by the United States to end the violence in Gaza, leaving American officials to seethe on the sidelines about what they regard as disrespectful treatment."

"Appalling"? "Disgraceful"? It is "appalling" that US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki never spent a week in the southern Israeli town of Sderot and learned what it means to take cover from incoming rockets within 15 seconds. It is "disgraceful" that Psaki failed to take into account that during the current conflict, Hamas has been firing rockets, stored in UN facilities, from schools, hospitals and mosques.

Psaki's outburst was indeed the product of frustration within the Obama administration. Just over a week ago, Obama demanded that Israel agree to an immediate unilateral ceasefire, coupled with mediation from Qatar and Turkey, Hamas's principal backers. Obama told Netanyahu that the Israeli prime minister had no choice in choosing meditators. Netanyahu ignored Obama, and Landler goes on to tell us why Obama was not able to have his way:

"And yet, with public opinion in both Israel and the United States solidly behind the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas, no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors, and unstinting support for Israel on Capitol Hill, President Obama has had few obvious levers to force Mr. Netanyahu to stop pounding targets in Gaza until he was ready to do it."

However, Landler fails to explain why public opinion in Israel has so staunchly supported the Israel Defense Forces campaign, or why there has been "no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors."

In fact, the Israeli public is painfully aware of the threat presented by Hamas. Hamas has sought to wage asymmetric war against Israel, but owing to the effectiveness of Iron Dome, rockets fired from Gaza have caused relatively little damage. On the other hand, the rockets did succeed in causing the US FAA to ban flights to Israel, thus effectively undermining Israeli commerce. Of greater significance, Hamas tunnels leading into Israel could have led to a spate of kidnappings and ensuing blackmail. Israel could not live with this threat, which had been ignored by the Israeli military establishment, and which inevitably will be the subject of future commissions of inquiry.

"No outcry from Israel's neighbors"? Egypt's Sisi and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah view Hamas as part and parcel of a radical Sunni threat to their regimes emanating from ISIL, and were incensed when Kerry sought to freeze them out of the negotiating process. Sisi and Abdullah would be delighted to see Hamas eradicated. Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, also took umbrage when he was not invited to attend the peace conference in Paris convened by Kerry. Nice work, John.

Mr. Landler concludes his article by observing the Obama administration's fury at Israel for calling into question Kerry's motives:

"'I cannot for the life of me understand why the Israelis would do this to Kerry,' said a senior administration official, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. 'If it was designed to pressure us, I don’t know to what end.'"

I have news for that anonymous "senior administration official": It was Kerry who put the gun to Israel's head by demanding that Israel agree to a cessation of hostilities without allowing Israel to destroy the tunnels and with the appointment of Qatar and Turkey as mediators.

But more to the point, no one is taking Obama seriously these days. In a Huffington Post article entitled "Stung By Criticism, Obama Preps Sweeping Defense Of His Foreign Policy Approach" (, Steve Holland noted:

"The president has come under withering fire in recent months for what his critics say is a passive approach to foreign policy, one that has allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to flex his muscle in Ukraine, and left the Syrian civil war to fester and China to threaten its neighbors in the South China Sea."

And so it happened that Obama, who could not stand up to tyrants and bullies and whose red lines have been drawn with washable crayons, sought to vent his frustrations against a long-standing friend in the Middle East.


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