For years, American Presidents have stated as President Obama did on July 27, that the United States supports “Israel’s right to defend itself.” The Israeli left had believed that while President Obama and Sec. Kerry offered criticism of Israeli settlements that things like Iron Dome funding really represented a more accurate portrayal of how the administration felt about Israel, that it wanted to enable America’s ally Israel to protect its citizens. To sum up that feeling simply, the left believed that while the United States’ leadership was critical of Israeli policy, it would help Israel defend itself against the threats that it faces. For most of the past few years, this has been specifically applied to Israeli concerns about Iran’s nuclear program with the Israeli political left arguing, to use the President’s own words, that President Obama “has Israel’s back.” It is hard to understate just how radically that understanding has changed over this past weekend, nor to fully assess the impact that change will have on Israeli policy concerning the threats that it faces in the region going forward.
What President Obama said to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday (in my words) is essentially that:
While we feel for your people’s suffering amid rocket attacks and understand the dangers related to the terror tunnels designed to aid in the mass murder and kidnapping of Israeli citizens, we demand that you not defend yourselves anymore right now lest you harm more Palestinians. Instead, you must negotiate a long term peace agreement with those who have declared their absolute opposition to your very existence while accepting a negotiated ceasefire agreement in the interim that improves your enemy’s ability to carry out that threat. Our long term goal will be to disarm them.
This sentiment delivered to the Israeli leadership by Sec. Kerry during ceasefire negotiations on Friday (after which Sec. Kerry flew to Paris to meet with representatives of Qatar and Turkey, Hamas’ closest allies) and by the President himself on Sunday, has left both Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet and the opposition political left incredulous and angry as well as had an extraordinarily damaging impact on events in Gaza. The term being used by many Israelis, even those on the far left, is “Betrayal.” Both sides of the Israeli political spectrum (as well as Egypt, the Palestinian Authority including Mahmoud Abbas himself, and Saudi Arabia along with other nations in the region) believed that the United States had advocated for Hamas’ position (backed by Qatar and Turkey) against Israel’s (though most on the left seem to think this is due to incompetence rather than malice) and promoted a situation that will now result in much more bloodshed on both sides. There is little doubt that this will have a very negative impact on relations between Israel and the Obama Administration going forward.
After Shabbat ended, Barak Ravid of Haaretz, a very left leaning author, published July 27, “What was he thinking?”:
The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.
Ari Shavit, also of Haaretz, is hardly a big supporter of Netanyahu, but he has been a strong supporter of John Kerry’s efforts. Yet, Shavit wrote in “John Kerry Risks Causing Escalation” published July 28 that:
With proper management, the military success could have been translated to a certain extent into a significant diplomatic victory: The Egyptian initiative.
But over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ruined everything. Very senior officials in Jerusalem described the proposal that Kerry put on the table as a “strategic terrorist attack.” His decision to go hand in hand with Qatar and Turkey, and formulate a framework amazingly similar to the Hamas framework, was catastrophic. It put wind in the sails of Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshal, allowed the Hamas extremists to overcome the Hamas moderates, and gave renewed life to the weakened regional alliance of the Muslim Brotherhood.
And when Shavit, whom NYT columnist and darling of the political left, Tom Friedman, cites as “one of a handful of experts whom I’ve relied upon to understand Israel ever since I reported there in the 1980s,” concludes his article with the following statement, it should sound alarms all over Washington that something is seriously wrong with US policy:
If Israel is forced to ultimately undertake an expanded ground operation in which dozens of young Israelis and hundreds of Palestinian civilians could lose their lives, it would be appropriate to name the offensive after the person who caused it: John Kerry. But if the escalation does not happen, instead we should remember that those who prevented it are three people the Obama administration loathes: Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Ya’alon.
For a complete and up to date understanding of the conflict and its timeline, please consult our continually updated “What you need to know” article. Regarding the July 25 ceasefire negotiations and their aftermath, here are several important articles which demonstrate the disillusionment of the Israeli political left and center: two articles by Barak Ravid (What was he thinking? and Kerry’s Ceasefire Draft Revealed), one by David Horovitz (John Kerry: The Betrayal), one by Ari Shavit (John Kerry Risks Causing Escalation), one by Avi Issacharoff (Kerry’s Mistakes Strengthen Hamas’ Resolve) and one by Elhanan Miller (Abbas Fumes at Kerry).