Op-Ed: Obama's Gaza Game
While Israelis are fighting and dying, families huddling in bomb shelters and soldiers going off to face death, the men and women in suits and power suits moving through the great halls of diplomacy are using them as pawns in a larger game.
During the Cold War, Israel was a pawn in a larger struggle between the US and the USSR. Now it is back to being a counter in a larger game.
diplomacy was never Kerry’s strong suit. His blatant Qatari intervention instead alienated everyone.
Israel’s function within the great halls of diplomacy was always as a lever on the Arab states. It was not an end, but a means of moving them one way or another. When the Arab states drifted into the Soviet orbit, the “Special Relationship” was born. The relationship accomplished its goal once Egypt was pried out of the Soviet orbit. It has lingered on because of the emotional and cultural ties of Israel and the US.
Diplomacy was never Kerry’s strong suit. His blatant Qatari intervention instead alienated everyone.
Now Obama is using Israel as a lever to push Egypt back into the Islamist camp. Egypt’s rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood broke the Arab Spring. Political Islam, which seemed to be on the ascendance, is back to being a freak show represented by terrorists and Turkey’s mad mustachioed dictator.
Egypt was where Obama went to begin the Arab Spring. Egypt is still his target. Israel is just the lever.
The reason Israel was never allowed to truly win any wars was because it was being used as a lever. By being a “good lever” during the Cold War, it could damage Egypt enough that the latter would come to the negotiating table overseen by the US and move back into the Western sphere of influence.
Israel couldn’t be allowed to win a big enough victory because then there would nothing to negotiate. Likewise, Israel wouldn’t be allowed to keep what it won because then there would be no reason for Egypt to come to the negotiating table. Sometimes Israel would even be expected to lose, as in the Yom Kippur War, to force it to come to the negotiating table.
Swap Egypt for the PLO and that’s how the disastrous peace process happened. Then swap the PLO for Hamas and that is where we are now.
Obama’s initial support for Israel’s war on Hamas was only to the extent necessary to bring the terrorist group to the negotiating table. And then once Hamas comes to the negotiating table, the White House will back its demands against Israel in exchange for getting the Brotherhood on board with its agenda.
Israel is just the means; the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam are the objective. That objective may mean the end of the West, but those striding boldly through the halls of diplomacy are not worried.
The real target of the Hamas campaign wasn’t Israel; it was Egypt.
Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood had included Hamas. That crackdown worried Hamas far more than anything that Israel was doing. Meanwhile the Muslim Brotherhood’s loss of power meant a major setback for the sugar daddies of the Arab Spring; Qatar, Turkey and their Western allies.
The new alignment had placed Qatar, Turkey, Obama and the EU in one row, while Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the PLO were in another row. The latest phase of the Gaza War between Israel and Hamas was meant to break apart that alignment.
Obama’s tilt toward Iran had encouraged Sunni Muslims to throw their backing behind ISIS leading to significant gains in Iraq. Qatar and Turkey, backers of both Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, then used ISIS to push the myth that the only counter to Al Qaeda was the Brotherhood’s political Islam.
Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, political Islam and the Jihadist bands, have always been two sides of the same coin, but the argument remains a persuasive one in the great halls of diplomacy.
Egypt had bottled up Hamas to avoid a repetition of the jailbreaks, terrorist attacks and street violence that had freed Morsi and Brotherhood leaders and later enabled Morsi to attempt a takeover of the Egyptian military.
The path to putting the Muslim Brotherhood back in power in Egypt runs through Hamas.
Hamas attacked Israel. There was enough backing for Israel’s attack on Hamas to get it to the negotiating table. But once a ceasefire offer was on the table, Egypt would no longer be calling the shots. Instead the deal would come through two of Hamas’ state sponsors; Qatar and Turkey.
For this to work, Obama had to keep a leash on Israel, giving it permission to fight and then pulling it back at the critical moment. Meanwhile Egypt would be surprised to learn that it was no longer setting the terms of the ceasefire based on the same old arrangement, but that its place would be filled by Qatar and Turkey. Their ceasefire terms, approved by the US, would loosen the blockade around Hamas.
Egypt had attempted to hold Hamas to the original ceasefire terms. That was not in the interests of the White House. The ceasefire negotiations had to be sabotaged with a political intervention on behalf of Hamas. And who better to conduct that political intervention than Secretary of State John Kerry?
Egypt, Israel and the PLO had not wanted Kerry to come. Israel’s former ambassador to the US had said that he was not invited. But he was caught on a hot mic saying that he was going to come anyway.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was even more unwanted, but Qatar transported him to Israel.
Kerry, the UN and Hamas had all become projections of Qatari state power into Egypt and Israel.
The US and the UN pushed for an urgent and immediate ceasefire. Israel accepted the ceasefire several times, but Hamas resumed firing each time. While Israel thought that this demonstrated its peaceful intentions, what it actually did was give Hamas the power to set the terms of the ceasefire.
Once Hamas had that power, meeting its demands became the key element of ending the violence.
One of Egypt’s remaining political assets had been the ability to turn off Hamas violence. Now Qatar and Turkey had demonstrated that it could no longer do that. With Qatar, Turkey and the US undermining Egypt, it could no longer pressure Hamas. Meanwhile the UN and the US were pressuring Israel to accept the Qatar/Turkey ceasefire terms favorable to Hamas and unfavorable to Egypt and Israel.
But diplomacy was never Kerry’s strong suit. His blatant Qatari intervention instead alienated everyone.
Netanyahu has chosen to extend the operation against Hamas. Backing him up are poll numbers which show that the vast majority of Israelis want the job done. The PLO now suspects that Obama is about to back a Hamas coup against it. And Egypt’s military has gotten a lot of recent experience watching Obama’s botched diplomatic strategies blow up in his face.
The real objective of this war was to undermine Egypt. Egypt was supposed to scramble into the new alignment by developing closer ties with Hamas and cutting a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood.
And if Egypt’s government wouldn’t cooperate, the Muslim Brotherhood might be able to tap into enough of the anti-Israel and pro-Hamas sentiment to topple the government a second time. But if Egypt remains opposed to Hamas and Israel pushes forward with a plan to demilitarize Gaza, then the goals of those in the great halls of diplomacy who are behind this war will fail.