This morning President Obama commented on both Gaza and the shooting down of the Malaysian airplane; you can read his remarks here. On Gaza, the President began with this:
I want to note that Secretary Kerry has departed for the Middle East. As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas. And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.
That is correct. And in order to do more damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, Israel needs to continue its operation. Only on the ground can Israel dismantle Hamas’s tunnel network and capture or destroy a substantial proportion of Hamas’s rockets. If Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas’s rocket and tunnel attacks, as Obama acknowledges, then it has a right to continue its current operation until its goals have been achieved.
But Obama immediately turns on a dime and contradicts the implication of what he has just said:
I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.
So Secretary Kerry will meet with allies and partners. I’ve instructed him to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The work will not be easy. Obviously, there are enormous passions involved in this and some very difficult strategic issues involved.
Israel certainly has a strategic issue involved: how to defend itself against Hamas’s terrorist attacks. Does Obama think that Hamas also has legitimate strategic issues at stake? If so, what are they?
Nevertheless, I’ve asked John to do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation to hostilities. We don’t want to see any more civilians getting killed.
But as long as Hamas uses Gaza’s civilians as human shields, civilian casualties are the inevitable consequence of Israel taking steps to defend itself against Hamas’s terrorist attacks. Calling for a cease fire–an end to all defensive measures by Israel–in effect sides with Hamas, and if heeded, would make it impossible for Israel to achieve what Obama concedes is its legitimate and critically important purpose. To be consistent, Obama should be calling on Hamas to turn over its rockets and stop putting the citizens of Gaza in danger for the sake of anti-Israel photo ops.
But of course Obama won’t say that. Israel’s best course is simply to ignore him and his messenger, John Kerry.