The American administration has discovered new peace partners (the "neutral parties") to help end the Gaza conflict: Turkey and Qatar. Egypt is not on the list (though it was thrown a bone by being nominated to host cease-fire talks). Egypt, of course, borders both Israel and Gaza, and made a serious cease-fire proposal a week back that Israel accepted and Hamas rejected, apparently on the advice of Turkey and Qatar.
Secretary of State John Kerry met with officials from Turkey and Qatar in Paris this week and the three countries seem to be on the same page in pushing cease-fire terms that could have been drafted by Hamas.
Today comes news of Turkish approval of a new flotilla, the so-called "Freedom Flotilla II" that will sail to Gaza to provide "humanitarian" assistance with support from the Turkish navy. The organizers of the flotilla are the IHH, the same group that sailed to the shores of Gaza in 2010 in the "Free Gaza Flotilla" armed with pipes, sticks and guns and ready to rumble with the Israel Defense Forces as part of their "humanitarian mission."
If the new flotilla sails, Turkey may have to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and itself.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan burnished his credentials as a peacemaker this week blasting Israel for "barbarism worse than Hitler." Erdogan also added: "Since [Israel's creation] in 1948, we have been witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every day and every month. But above all, we are witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every Ramadan."
In other words, Israel attempts systematic genocide every day for 66 years, but particularly during Ramadan. Erdogan's comments seemed to echo the insights of Dean Wormer in "Animal House," inventor of something called "double secret probation," probably also in effect systematically every Ramadan.
Turkey's government also saw fit to encourage wild mobs to congregate outside Israel's embassy and consular facilities, in direct contravention of diplomatic rules, with members of Erdogan's party leading the charge in some cases.
Kerry and President Barack Obama seem to believe that Turkey's record since the current conflict began demonstrates the wisdom, skill, fairness, leadership, diplomatic ability and even-handedness necessary to work with both parties and help move a cease-fire forward.
Turkey's new role should be no surprise since Obama has repeatedly praised Erodgan and applauded his "democratic" Islamic state
"When the two leaders met at the Seoul, South Korea, Nuclear Security Summit in March of 2012, Obama called Erdogan his 'friend and colleague. ... We find ourselves in frequent agreement upon a wide range of issues.' Not content with this level of praise, Obama added that he considered Erdogan 'an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend' who has displayed 'outstanding leadership.'"
Presumably that outstanding leadership included Erdogan's calling Zionism "a crime against humanity," another mark in his favor in the Obama playbook as a peacemaker for Gaza.
And then there is Qatar, which, this week signed an $11 billion dollar arms deal with the United States. Is it possible that some of the money that will be secured by arms manufacturers in the United States from the deal may find its way back to Democratic Party super PACs in time for the 2014 midterms? Would Obama be so cynical as to approve an arms deal seeking to achieve such a spin-off effect?
Qatar, which owns the Al Jazeera network that bought Al Gore's Current network (presumably a deal made easier by Gore's appreciation of Qatar's history of green energy initiatives), has played a major role in funding and supplying arms to Hamas.
Former President Shimon Peres, hardly Israel's leading hawk, bitterly condemned Qatar's role.
"Qatar does not have the right to send money for rockets and tunnels which are fired at innocent civilians," the outgoing statesman told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem. "Their funding of terror must stop. If they want to build then they should, but they must not be allowed to destroy."
The Kerry cease-fire approach, unanimously rejected by Israel's cabinet, amounts to American acceptance of Hamas' demands:
"A) Establish a humanitarian cease-fire, ending all hostilities in and from the Gaza Strip, beginning in 48 hours, and lasting for a period of seven days.
"B) Build on the Cairo cease-fire understandings of November 2012 [that were reached, through American and Egyptian mediation, following Operation Pillar of Defense].
"C) Convene in Cairo, at the invitation of Egypt, within 48 hours to negotiate resolution of all issues necessary to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and enduring solution to the crisis in Gaza, including arrangements to secure the opening of crossings, allow the entry of goods and people and ensure the social and economic livelihood of the Palestinian people living in Gaza, transfer funds to Gaza for the payment of salaries for public employees, and address all security issues."
Section C, of course is the critical section. First, send in the money to pay the bureaucrats (or to have the money stolen by Hamas officials).
Nothing in Section C specifically addresses any of Israel's security concerns: the over 2,000 rockets launched at the Jewish state just in this latest encounter, the tens of thousands of rockets that remain under Hamas' control, or the tunnels that were to be used for a Rosh Hashanah massacre. There is no mention of the need to demilitarize Gaza, the only step that would enable any cease-fire to be more than short-term. As long as Hamas remains in charge, and keeps its weapons, expiration of the next negotiated cease-fire will be at Hamas' choosing, as has always been the case.
The implementation of a cease-fire on the terms in Kerry's letter would lead to the passage of Hamas fighters into Sinai, and the passage of more weapons-making materials into Gaza. The so-called "blockade of Gaza" that Hamas is working so hard to end seems to have failed, based on the number of rockets and weapons that have been delivered to Hamas, or manufactured in Gaza with smuggled materials. The tunnels, built under the border between Gaza and Israel and Gaza and Egypt and under all of Gaza itself, also required enormous amounts of concrete.
An IDF summary suggests that 350 truckloads of building materials are required for each of the cross-border tunnels at a cost of about $3 million for each of the tunnels so far discovered (more than 30). What Hamas really wants is to facilitate the transfer of goods so as to bring down the cost of its weaponization program, and have it paid for by the West.
Much as Obama facilitated a more prominent role for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and welcomed its subsequent electoral victory there, its cozy relations with Turkey and Qatar, Hamas' closest allies, show how far American policy has shifted in the region. Nations that are aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood are America's favorites. This new approach mirrors the American attempt over five years to begin a new strategic relationship with Iran that will enable that regime to continue to process uranium, and to get sanctions relief in exchange for sacrificing nothing from its nuclear program that cannot be quickly reversed.
Just as the Obama administration gave a cold shoulder to Iran's green revolution and to long-time ally Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israel has become an obstacle standing in the way of America's new plan for the Middle East. It is certainly no longer an ally. The Obama team seems to be invested in Islamists, whether Sunni or Shiite, and has empowered these regimes, while signaling it has more important things to do than commit any more resources to the region than Kerry's pathetic fly-arounds doing Hamas' bidding.
The Obama team is certainly under pressure from Turkey and Qatar to ensure that Hamas is not soundly defeated, and its military threat incapacitated. But in reality, the Obama team might prefer that the war continue for a while. For if the Gaza war disappeared from the news, its other grand successes on the international stage -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and the "Russian reset" -- might receive the ridicule and scorn they deserve.
Take your pick for why the administration has wound up in its current posture -- incompetence, consciously seeking to weaken ties with long-term allies, and build up new ones that better fit the president's worldview (favoring Islamists), attempting to separate his political party from its historic ties with the Jewish state, ideological naivete, or all of the above. In any case, Israel has taken its measure of Barack Obama and John Kerry, and it knows it is on its own.