WASHINGTON — Though Israel should never carelessly ignore U.S. pressure, it nevertheless must resist current U.S. efforts to impose a cease-fire on the Israel-Hamas conflict while Israel remains besieged by rockets and tunnels.
To be sure, the United States has provided Israel with vital military, economic and diplomatic support since its founding after World War II and, without bedrock U.S. support, Israel could become dangerously isolated.
This time, however, Jerusalem must accept the growing friction in U.S.-Israeli relations of recent weeks, ignore Washington’s pressure to cease military operations and finish the job for three basic reasons.
First, Israel knows best how to protect itself from the dangers emanating from a terrorist entity on its border that no other nation would tolerate — nor, frankly, be pressured by Washington to tolerate.
Hamas, which calls for murdering Jews and destroying Israel, has launched thousands of rockets across the Jewish state not just in recent weeks but for years, and its surprisingly sophisticated network of tunnels that Israel was fortunate to discover as part of Operation Protective Edge was designed to enable its operatives to cross the border to kill or capture scores, if not hundreds, of Israelis.
In fact, Israel learned from captured Hamas fighters during its current operation that Hamas planned a massive terror operation during the Jewish High Holidays in late September, with hundreds of fighters crossing into Israel at night and quickly positioning themselves to kill or capture as many Israeli civilians as possible.
No country can live under constant attack from the air or the threat of infiltration from numerous openings in the ground, and it is Israel, not the United States, that suffers directly when Hamas hits its targets.
Second, Hamas — not Israel — can bring peace immediately by halting its attacks, dismantling its rockets and filling its tunnels. As Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor put it aptly, “When it is quiet in Israel, it will be quiet in Gaza.”
After all, Hamas is the aggressor, Israel the responder. Hamas seeks to kill as many innocent Israelis as possible and, by hiding in schools, mosques and hospitals, force Israel to kill as many innocent Gazans as possible.
Even while battling a genocidal group under such circumstances, Israel seeks to limit death and destruction by warning Gazans of coming attacks, treating Gazans who are caught in the crossfire at Israeli hospitals and restoring power to Gaza after Hamas hits power lines.
Thus, in its efforts to end the current Israeli-Hamas conflict and promote long-term Israeli-Palestinian peace, the United States would be well-advised to shift its public pressure from Israel to Hamas.
Third, Jerusalem has legitimate concerns about whether Washington understands the essence of this conflict, the nature of its combatants, and the best way forward for Israel in its turbulent neighborhood.
To craft a cease-fire agreement, Secretary of State John Kerry met with officials from Qatar and Turkey, the region’s two biggest Hamas boosters — rather than from Israel, the Palestinian Authority — which Washington supposedly favors over Hamas, or Egypt — which also borders Gaza and shares Israeli concerns about Hamas.
Also problematic was the draft agreement, which proposed to codify such Hamas demands as fewer restrictions on the flow of people and goods between Gaza and Israel and between Gaza and Egypt, while prohibiting Israel from continuing to destroy the tunnels or conduct other “military or security” operations against Hamas.
Only later would a peace conference of all relevant parties in Cairo, which would include “the Palestinian factions,” presumably, even the genocidal Hamas, address “all security issues” — presumably, even Israel’s.
Although the United States is Israel’s most important ally, only Jerusalem can decide how to protect its people from relentless terrorist attack in a global environment that unfairly targets the Jewish state and excuses its enemies.
A former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, Lawrence J. Haas is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.