When David Ignatius writes, Truman and I usually drop what we’re doing and pay attention. In this morning’s Washington Post, his column was titled “John Kerry’s big blunder in seeking an Israel-Gaza cease fire.” (Worth a read; it’s short).
Ignatius writes that in his haste to seek a quick pause to the shooting war, the U.S. secretary of state legitimized the hard-line Hamas rulers of Gaza by forgoing negotiations with the more moderate Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah Party. Thus, in the quest for a quick solution, he may have lengthened the current conflict.
Like many revolutionary groups, Hamas has found that governing is a hell of a lot tougher than killing and maiming. (No, Nancy Pelosi, Hamas is not a humanitarian organization, as you stated during your interview on CNN on Sunday. After all, Hezbollah is still a terrorist organization even though it runs clinics and schools to induce the loyalty of Shiite Lebanese). With Gaza’s economy in the toilet (thanks in part to an Israeli naval blockade triggered by arms smuggling into Gaza) and essential services struggling to provide for its 1.8 million people, Hamas agreed several months ago to a unity government with the PA in April. A friendlier face might’ve been the better one to approach, but what the hell do I know?
By some accounts, Hamas still has thousands of rockets squirreled away to fire into Israel. For its part, Israel still has plenty of bullets – and most importantly, collective national will – to continue pummeling Gaza – neutralizing the tunnels being used to infiltrate terrorists across the border and continuing the turkey shoot until anything resembling a military target or symbol of Hamas power is a cloud of dust.
It’s in everyone’s best interests (especially the U.S. strategic interest) to find a face-saving way to pause this shooting war, even for a couple of consecutive days. I just wonder how the U.S. will do it after its sharpest negotiating tool – Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy – has so unceremoniously lost its edge.