This bloody past suggests to us that enemies cease hostilities only when they are battered enough to acknowledge that there is no hope in victory — and thus that further resistance means only useless sacrifice. — Victor Davis Hanson
Many of us have welcomed statements from various world leaders, including those of the US, which affirm Israel’s right to defend herself, and accuse Hamas of aggression and war crimes.
As I have written countless times — particularly with respect to the US — it isn’t words that count, it is actions. And sometimes what appear to be supportive words are accompanied by actions that are not so supportive.
For example, here is John Kerry responding to a question from Fox News’ Chris Wallace:
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, when you said it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, are you upset that the Israelis are going too far, and in fact, do you intend to go back to the Middle East tonight, sir?
SECRETARY KERRY: I think it’s very, very difficult in these situations, obviously very difficult, Chris. You have people who’ve come out of tunnels. You have a right to go in and take out those tunnels. We completely support that, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started this process of rocketing after Israel was trying to find the people who killed three young – and one American kid, three young Israeli citizens. It’s disgraceful.
And so, yeah, it’s tough. It’s tough to have this kind of operation, and I reacted obviously in a way that anybody does with respect to young children and civilians. But war is tough, and I said that publicly and I’ll say it again. We defend Israel’s right to do what it is doing in order to get at those tunnels. Israel has accepted a unilateral ceasefire. It’s accepted the Egyptian plan, which we also support. And it is important for Hamas to now step up and be reasonable and understand that you accept a ceasefire, you save lives, and that’s the way we can proceed to have a discussion about all of the underlying issues which President Obama has clearly indicated a willingness to do.
It sounds very supportive. But the cease-fire that Kerry is coming to the Middle East to demand would prevent Israel from destroying the tunnels that Israeli soldiers have, at a shockingly high cost, so far kept from becoming instruments of mass murder. It would prevent Israel from finding the storerooms and production facilities for those rockets, that a combination of technology and luck have so far kept from killing hundreds of Israelis.
Kerry’s intentions contradict his words. If Israel has a “right to do what it is doing,” then it has a right to continue doing it until its objective is attained. Cynical Israelis can be excused for assuming that Kerry’s urgency is due more to the strategic effect of Israel’s ongoing operations than to the number of civilian casualties — indeed, they ask, if he is worried about noncombatant casualties, why doesn’t he go to Syria or Iraq? Why doesn’t he demand an immediate stop to the vicious ethnic cleansing of Christians in Mosul? The world is full of conflicts much more deadly than the one in Gaza.
Kerry’s plan is to stop the fighting and negotiate an agreement with some kind of international guarantee (how tired I am of hearing the same old nonsense!) that will protect Israel. But as long as it has its strategic assets, Hamas has absolutely no incentive to agree to anything that would effectively disarm it, and there is no international force that will risk its own lives to enforce such an agreement.
Negotiations would naturally fall into a give-and-take format, in which the Hamas leadership, instead of being imprisoned or hanged for war crimes as they deserve, could make demands in return for pretending to disarm. They would follow the usual pattern of taking advantage of every delay to strengthen their strategic position and use the talks as a forum to influence world opinion. And sooner or later war will return.
On the other hand, a thoroughly defeated Hamas, one without tunnels or rockets, with much of its leadership dead or captured, would be motivated to peaceful behavior simply in order to save its skin. Following Victor Davis Hanson, the road to peace runs through victory, not compromise.
War, as Kerry knows, is “tough” (General Sherman had another word for it, far more descriptive). But the alternative to winning a war is losing it, and in this case that would be even more “tough.” Israel is fighting in accordance with international law, and indeed has gone beyond it — to the extent that yesterday it suffered casualties that possibly could have been avoided if it had been less scrupulous about following the rules. And it is facing an enemy whose strategy is based on violating those same rules.
If we give Kerry the benefit of the doubt and assume that his primary concern is humanitarian, then he should follow the path that will bring the war to an end as soon as possible, in such a way as to make it unlikely to resume for as long as possible.
That means letting the conflict take its course, while fully supporting Israel in defeating and disarming Hamas, destroying its rockets and tunnels, and putting in place a system that will keep it from recovering its ability to fight.