October 20, 2018

Where is Obama on Hamas?

I can understand why President Barack Obama would be reluctant to blindly support Israel at times when Israel’s neighbors have major grievances against the Jewish state. It serves no one’s interest for America to appear overly biased toward Israel. Better to appear fair and reasonable.

What I can’t understand, though, is why Obama has not jumped at the opportunity to rally behind Israel when neighbors such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are clearly on the side of Israel on one major issue: the disarming of Hamas.

This is not a parlor game of “Who won the war?” It’s more serious than that.

Disarming Hamas is about the rehabilitation of Gaza after major devastation. It’s about rebuilding the infrastructure, building better schools and hospitals, opening up trade, creating jobs and an economy, and giving the Gazan people hope for a better future.

It’s about ending the terror of rockets and mortars raining down on Israel, and ending the fear of Israeli children living near the Gaza border that a Hamas terrorist may one day dig a tunnel under their bedrooms.

It’s about improving relations between Israel and the Palestinians by having the PA control the Gaza strip and coordinate security with the Israel Defense Forces — as they’ve done so successfully in the West Bank. No matter how suspicious you may be of Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah, they’re still far better than religious fanatics who believe that murdering Jews is doing God’s work. 

It’s about nurturing a closer relationship between Israel and powerful players such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the hope of creating an anti-terror coalition that can contain the violent Islamist extremism now sweeping the region.

It’s about showing the nuclear mullahs in Iran that we will stand up to their proxy wars against Israel via the likes of Hezbollah and Hamas.

It’s about America making a statement to the world that despite all the complexities of geopolitics, there should be no confusion when it comes to calling out evil. A Hamas charter that promotes the murder of Jews is exactly that — evil.

In short, this is about a unique chance for President Obama to fight the evil of Hamas by bringing together the more moderate forces in the Middle East. You would think, then, that the president would be all over this. You’d think, for example, that he’d be using all this “Arab leverage” to push for a United Nations Security Council resolution to disarm Hamas as a precondition for rebuilding the Gaza Strip. 

After all, this isn’t one of those risky or unpopular ideas — like putting American boots on the ground or being the lone defender of Israel against a hostile world. This is about Obama doing something very popular with plenty of important allies.

In fairness, the Obama administration has repeatedly expressed its support for the demilitarization of Gaza. But words, even the right words repeated often, are not enough. It’s time for real action. It’s time to go to the U.N. Security Council. 

We can only hope that the president has this idea up his sleeve, and that he will act aggressively on this issue. But it was disheartening to read a report on JPost this past weekend, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told associates that demilitarization of the Gaza Strip “doesn’t appear to be attainable in either the short term or the long term.”

Let’s acknowledge that the United Nations is never a picnic for Israel. As Haviv Rettig Gur writes in the Times of Israel, “The U.N. drafting process — much of it driven by Israel’s enemies … would see language and assertions added to the resolution that run counter to Israel’s interests.”

The only party that can ensure the move doesn’t backfire on Israel, he writes, is America: “Through its veto and its alliances, the U.S. would find it far easier than Israel to shepherd a disarmament resolution through the Security Council that Israel could stomach.”

At a time of unusual darkness in the Middle East, what a ray of sunshine this would be: The United States shepherds a U.N. resolution that fights extremism and helps its allies in the Middle East.

The American-Jewish community, including AIPAC and J Street, must seize the moment and rally behind this one unifying cause: “Disarm Hamas and rebuild Gaza.”

How often do we get a chance to promote a cause that is supported by both the Jews and the Palestinians?

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.