- - Monday, August 25, 2014


With Hamas‘ decision to break the latest cease-fire, now is the time to examine the missed opportunity from our battle with Hamas. At the outset of this conflict a unique set of circumstances — some a result of carefully planned policy and others as a result of sheer circumstance — created a situation in which the terrorists of Hamas were almost hermetically isolated.

Israel found itself for nearly the first time with near-unanimous international backing for a military operation. At precisely that point, I urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to begin our ground operation into Gaza to destroy the terrorists’ tunnels and the missile launchers, even at the cost of my position as deputy minister of defense.

The conduct of the United States throughout this crisis, however, has been disappointing. Instead of providing the strong support needed to Israel, Egypt and other moderate forces in the region, President Obama’s administration has shown a clear preference for working with, even appeasing, the extreme forces of Qatar and Turkey. Only after numerous failed cease-fires did the U.S. administration comprehend the futility of this route.

During Mohammed Morsi’s time as president of Egypt, Hamas maintained a powerful regional ally. This is no longer the case. Understanding that Hamas is nothing more than a satellite entity of the hated Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi not only outlawed Hamas, but destroyed hundreds of tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza that had served as a key artery for the terrorists’ murderous missile supply.

In addition to losing their Egyptian patron, Hamas also managed to anger Bashar Assad in Syria by siding with the Muslim extremists who have been among the groups aiming to unseat the Syrian dictator. The Iranians, who until recently were Hamas‘ main suppliers of arms and training, have also disassociated themselves from the Sunni extremists in Gaza out of their loyalty to Mr. Assad. Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not only subtly signaled his approval for our actions in Gaza, but has also played a role in convincing Hamas to suspend the current round of violence.

When the Israel Defense Forces were ordered into Gaza to stop the missile attacks and destroy the attack tunnels, we were not met with the usual condemnation from the Arab world. Instead, we began a constructive dialogue with the Egyptians about possible cease-fire proposals. While these first drafts did not fully ensure our security needs and were, therefore, rightly rejected by many in Israel, they did provide a basis for further discussion. A previously closed door had been strategically opened. The fact that Egypt was willing to play such a constructive role is an exceptionally encouraging sign for Israel.

Instead of capitalizing on these developments and providing further support to Israel and Egypt, Secretary of State John F. Kerry instead decided to turn to Qatar and Turkey and seek their input on a possible cease-fire. Mr. Kerry is well aware of the dangerous role that Qatar has played over the past decade in our region. This is the same Qatar that is competing with Iran for the role of Hamas‘ No. 1 backer. In fact, it is the government of Emir Tamim bin Hamad that bankrolled the lethal attack tunnels that have already cost so many Israeli lives.

Turkey’s role since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power has been equally incendiary in the Middle East. The Turks have consistently sided with extremist, dangerous anti-Western elements. In both public comments and private actions, they have repeatedly supported the terrorists of Hamas, often to the detriment of moderate elements in Palestinian society. Furthermore, to this day, Turkey still recognizes the extremists of the Muslim Brotherhood as the legitimate leaders of Egypt. In fact, just recently, Mr. Erdogan not only cruelly compared Israel to Nazi Germany, but he also labeled Gen. el-Sissi a tyrant.

It was these reactionary forces that Mr. Kerry chose to embrace and, therefore, it was unfortunately not surprising that when the Americans tried to broker a cease-fire, it ended in failure. The draft they proposed to our government did not assign blame for the current violence, including the unfortunate Palestinian civilian casualties, on Hamas, but rather it equated the democratic American ally of Israel with the so called “Palestinian factions.” More importantly, the draft made no mention of Israel’s legitimate right to continue all operations until the threats from the terrorist tunnels are neutralized and we put an end to the daily rocket attacks on our cities.

Thankfully, our government stood strong against this immense pressure. We did this while acknowledging the great debt we owe to the administration and both houses of Congress for their steadfast support for the lifesaving Iron Dome and the other aspects of our unparalleled security cooperation. Nevertheless, we must heed the words of President Obama, who in a visit to Israel in 2008, said: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

Israel will continue to do all that is necessary to protect our citizens and ensure that our children live their lives without fear of daily, deadly terrorist attacks. Now is the time for the United States to recognize the opportunities created by this conflict, stand strong in defense of its true allies, and make clear to the forces of tyranny that the West will not be threatened by the murderous evils of terrorism.

Danny Danon, a member of the Knesset, served as Israel’s deputy minister of defense.

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