There is a growing consensus in the United States and around the world that the way to end the Israel-Gaza war is to disarm Hamas. President Obama seems to be the only hold-out.
On July 24, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a resolution calling on the Obama Administration to make the disarming of Hamas a central part of any cease-fire proposal.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican, is spearheading this effort together with Democratic Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Ben Cardin of Maryland.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on July 15 to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, he said: “We agreed to the Egyptian proposal in order to give an opportunity for the demilitarization of the (Gaza) Strip – from missiles, from rockets, and from tunnels – through diplomatic means.” Likewise, Netanyahu said at a televised news conference on July 16: “The most important thing vis-a-vis Gaza is to ensure that Gaza is demilitarized.”
In the days to follow, international leaders began to align with Netanyahu’s position.
Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who is now the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East, said on Israel Television’s Channel 10 on July 15 that there needs to be a “long-term plan for Gaza that…deals with the real security requirements of Israel in a permanent way…Hamas cannot carry on with the military infrastructure that it has.”
Then, on July 22, the entire European Union weighed in. In its official statement on the Gaza situation, the EU declared: “All terrorist groups in Gaza must disarm.”
The Quartet and the EU are not exactly Israel’s best friends. In fact, typically they are among the loudest critics of Israel and the first to demand that Israel make even more unilateral concessions to the Palestinians.
So when both the Quartet and the EU agree with Israel that Hamas must be disarmed, it’s a very significant development.
Perhaps it has to do with the international community’s handling of other recent situations involving the disarming of terrorists and dictators. England insisted on disarming the IRA before reaching its agreement on Ireland. The United States and its allies, as well as Russia, have insisted on Syria surrendering its chemical weapons.
It’s painfully obvious that there will be no peace in Gaza if Hamas is permitted to keep its 10,000-plus missiles, not to mention its terror tunnels, drones, bomb-making factories, and the various other weapons it has been stockpiling. So obvious that even the EU and the Quartet recognize it.
Or maybe it’s just that the EU and the Quartet are finally waking up to the fact that an armed-to-the-teeth terror regime in Gaza is not just a problem for Israel. It’s a problem for the entire Free World. Israel is on the front lines in an international war against terrorism. Gaza is just one battlefield. What starts in Gaza or Baghdad or Kabul soon makes its way to London and Madrid and New York City.
The Washington Post certainly seems to understand that. In its lead editorial on July 24, the Post declared, for the first time, that any Israel-Gaza cease-fire has to include “the disarmament of Hamas.” The Post warned that any easing of the Israeli blockade, without disarming Hamas, would “allow Hamas to import more missiles and concrete for new tunnels.”
President Obama and his Administration seem to be the only ones who still aren’t facing reality.
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, appearing on National Public Radio on July 23, was prodded by the interviewer as to whether the Obama Administration is endorsing Israel’s demand for disarming Hamas. Blinken replied: “One of the results, one would hope, of a cease-fire would be some form of demilitarization…”
So Blinken, who in such media appearances is in effect speaking for the White House, merely “hopes” that “one of the results” of a cease-fire would be “some form” or demilitarization. Hoping that something might happen is a far cry from taking steps to make sure it will happen.
But even Blinken’s weak acknowledgement that disarming might not be such a bad idea was too much for Secretary of State John Kerry. Asked in Jerusalem about Blinken’s comments, Kerry replied (according to the Associated Press): “All of the issues of Gaza would be on the table.” Kerry deliberately declined to endorse disarming.
The EU, the Quartet, leading members of Congress, and the Washington Post all now recognize that a cease-fire without disarmament would be a de-facto victory for Hamas. It would give Hamas the time and breathing space it needs to smuggle in more weapons, to repair its terror tunnels, and to launch new terror attacks on Israel.
The tenth lesson from the Gaza war: It’s time for the Obama Administration to get on board with the rest of the Free World, and support disarming Hamas now.
Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn are members of the board of the Religious Zionists of America.