Thursday, January 20th | 19 Shevat 5782

April 17, 2018 7:50 am

What a Difference an Administration Makes

avatar by Shmuley Boteach


A missile is seen over Damascus, Syria, April 14, 2018. Photo: SANA / Handout via Reuters.

Barack Obama is a moral man. But as president, he had an amoral foreign policy. Obama and his national security trio of John Kerry, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power regularly obfuscated on clear-cut moral issues, like whether or not Iran should be penalized for genocidal incitement against Israel; whether Hamas should be punished for terrorism; and, most importantly, whether the United States should attack Bashar Assad for gassing Arab children.

In the case of all three, the Obama quartet decided not to take sides. They decided to be neutral on Iran, mildly critical of Hamas, and take no action against Syria, even after Obama declared that the use of poison gas against civilians was a red line that he would enforce. Over the years, I praised Samantha Power, but I was very disappointed by her actions.

Now we have witnessed Donald Trump attack Syria for the second time in about a year because the Butcher of Damascus is using outlawed sarin and chlorine gas to exterminate his people. Assad is a vile man. And if the words “Never Again” are to have meaning, than the civilized world must destroy his capacity for gassing children — otherwise, we lose moral credibility.

Donald Trump has endured much criticism as president. But when it comes to foreign policy, what a difference an administration makes. Less than four years ago, Hamas was firing mortars and rockets into Israel, and the Obama administration was condemning Israel for failing to do all it could to prevent civilian casualties. Now Hamas is stoking riots in Gaza against Israeli soldiers, attempting to place bombs along the border fence, and trying to infiltrate Israel to commit terrorist attacks. But this time, the Trump administration is defending Israel’s actions to protect its citizens and calling out Hamas for its commitment to violence and genocide.

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It is, of course, sad and very unfortunate that lives have been lost during the melee along Israel’s border with Gaza — even though most were Hamas terrorists. Israel was put in a no-win situation. If its troops did nothing, terrorists could have attacked soldiers, placed IEDs along the fence, and the mob could have crossed into Israel and threatened the population. Let us never forget that Hamas is a genocidal organization whose charter calls for the annihilation of the Jewish people. And if Israel takes measures to stop them, any injuries are exploited by Hamas for propaganda purposes.

Sadly, as it so often does, the media is singing from the Hamas song sheet. Major news outlets printed screaming headlines saying that Israeli troops were killing Palestinians, ignoring Hamas’ role in the conflict and giving the impression that the Israeli military was shooting peaceful protestors rather than rioters and terrorists. Those same news outlets mostly omit Hamas’ genocidal charter and incitement against Israel and international Jewry.

President Trump’s special envoy for Middle East peace Jason Greenblatt has forcefully held Hamas to account for their calls to violence. Unlike the myopic journalists I’ve cited, Greenblatt noted in a tweet that Hamas’ leader Yahya Al-Sinwar said that they will “tear down the wall and tear out [Israelis’] hearts.” Greenblatt rightly called the message “monstrous” and added “this only hurts the Palestinians of Gaza.” He said that the statement’s “old-line of thinking and ideology hurts all Palestinians” and “can cause the situation to escalate and many lives could be lost.”

He asked the question that everyone should: “Will Hamas ever learn?”

Before the second week of protests, Greenblatt sent the Palestinians a strong message:

The United States strongly urges protest leaders to communicate loudly and clearly that protestors should march peacefully; should abstain from all forms of violence; should remain outside the 500-meter buffer zone; and should not approach the border fence in any way or any location. We condemn leaders and protestors who call for violence or who send protestors — including children — to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed. Instead, we call for a renewed focus by all parties on finding solutions to the dire humanitarian challenges facing Gazans.

Hamas ignored the warning and engaged in a second week of violence. Afterward, Greenblatt reiterated the conditions that Israel, the United States, and the EU have set for an end to the blockade of Gaza — and the participation of Gaza’s leaders in negotiations: “Hamas must relinquish its control of Gaza to the PA and disarm. If it wants to join the REAL world, it must renounce violence, recognize Israel, and decide to abide by past agreements. It’s time for Hamas to make some real decisions.”

Greenblatt added that if the Palestinian leadership “renounces violence & ceases to threaten its neighbors, it will find an outstretched hand from the US, ready to help improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. Such a step forward can yield tremendous opportunity.”

Meanwhile, at the UN, instead of an ambassador quick to castigate Israel, as Samantha Power did during Israel’s war with Hamas, we have Nikki Haley standing up for Israel against the lynch mob mentality at the Security Council and Human Rights Council (HRC).

Instead of allowing yet another anti-Israel investigation to be launched, Haley made sure that the recommendation never came to a vote at the Security Council. And when the HRC condemned Israel, Haley tweeted, “When the Human Rights Council treats Israel worse than North Korea, Iran, & Syria, it is the Council itself that is foolish and unworthy of its name.”

On Syria, Haley has been exemplary, holding Russia and Iran to account for Assad’s atrocities against his people and making clear that the most recent American attack will be one of many if Assad dares gas his people again. In fact, Haley was even harder on Russia than Trump, who later overruled her.

Hamas sees the unfair attacks against Israel in a biased media — especially in Europe — as vindication for its behavior. The Palestinian issue is once again getting international attention, and Israel is bearing the brunt of the criticism for Hamas-instigated violence. Hence, Hamas promises to continue its violent protests to provoke more confrontations, hoping that they will produce casualties to blame on Israel. The Palestinians learned long ago they can fabricate casualty statistics, stage photo-ops, use their people as human shields, and claim terrorists are civilians — and the press will parrot their propaganda.

After eight long years of Israel being cast as the obstacle to peace, we have an administration that understands that it is Palestinian terror, incitement, and refusal to recognize the Jewish right to independence in their homeland that is the cause of ongoing strife. We also have an administration that will not turn a blind eye to the use of gas against children. Knowing the United States is pursuing a foreign policy with a moral underpinning and with an emphasis on the infinite value of every human life might just lead other nations to finally hold Assad accountable for his atrocities — as well as Hamas and Iran for their stated goals of exterminating Israel and the Jewish people.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 31 books including his most recent, The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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