Israel Under Attack
Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By LEE SMITH
Last week, Hamas fired hundreds of rockets and missiles at targets throughout Israel, including the nuclear reactor at Dimona. Two of the three M-75 missiles targeting Dimona missed the mark entirely, but one had to be brought down by Iron Dome, Israel’s antimissile shield. The U.N. considers an attack on a nuclear reactor an act of nuclear terrorism, which in this case might have taken a catastrophic toll on Israel’s population—as well as the Palestinians.
And now Obama is offering to play honest broker and negotiate a ceasefire between this terrorist group and our ally Israel. Why not? Just last month, the Obama administration helped usher Hamas into a Palestinian unity government. It’s not as if the White House didn’t know whom it was dealing with. Hamas hadn’t changed its stripes or its founding charter, which calls for unending war on Israel until the Jewish state is erased from the pages of history. Even as the administration was telling Jerusalem to give Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas a little time to work out all the kinks with his new unity government, Hamas was preparing for war.
While the administration was showing the PA how to get around U.S. laws that prevent American money from going to terrorists, Hamas was fortifying its tunnel network. It moves men and materiel and missiles through those tunnels, like the medium-range M-75s, and the long-range M-302s, designed by Iran and launched last week on trajectories that reached as far as Haifa, Israel’s northernmost major city.
Surely the White House had intelligence about the tunnels and the missiles, both of which were clear evidence of Hamas’s intentions—terror and war. The problem isn’t that the administration didn’t know, but that it didn’t care. The White House has its own peculiar ideas about the Middle East, which is why America’s regional standing, from North Africa to the Persian Gulf, is in shambles.
The Obama administration’s map of the Middle East might as well be of the Hobbits’ Middle Earth because it bears no relationship to reality. Every corner of the region is yet another realm of wondrous fantasy governed by magical thinking. A Fatah-Hamas unity deal? How productive! Coordination with Qassem Suleimani and the Quds Force in Iraq? That’s refreshing! An agreement with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear weapons program allowing them to keep 10,000 centrifuges? This will bring the clerical regime back into the community of nations!
The White House cannot be bothered with Middle Eastern reality. Several weeks ago, the administration was warned that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was on the verge of taking over a strategically important Syrian city, Deir al-Zour, close to the Iraqi border. As the Daily Beast reported, the Syrian opposition told administration officials like U.N. ambassador Samantha Power that they were surrounded by ISIS forces and running out of ammunition. Without support, it was only a matter of time before the city and key supply routes fell into ISIS’s hands. The Syrian opposition’s warnings fell on deaf ears. Evidently, it does not matter to the White House that a terrorist organization with enormous reserves of cash now controls territory on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, or that its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls this territory the “caliphate.”
Last week the White House’s Middle East coordinator, Philip Gordon, visited Tel Aviv to speak at a conference where he encouraged Israel to take bold steps for peace, to “end the occupation and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security, and dignity.” Soon after his talk, the conference hall had to be vacated because the territory in Gaza that Israel ceased to occupy in 2005 allowed Palestinian militants to rain missiles on Israel’s largest city. This episode, a perfect illustration of the Obama administration willfully ignoring reality, should provide a lesson, wrote David Horovitz. “Our closest friend,” he wrote in the Times of Israel, “should be just a little less arrogant in telling us what we need and don’t need to do in order to keep ourselves safe.”
Meanwhile, Hamas’s campaign shows no sign of ending any time soon. According to Israeli strategists, Hamas’s rate of missile fire is considerably slower than it was two years ago when Israel mounted Operation Pillar of Defense to stop Hamas rockets. The rate suggests to Israeli officials that Hamas is trying to conserve its arsenal. As the Washington Free Beacon reported, the Israeli Air Force is targeting missile factories as well as tunnels, but that may not be sufficient.
In 2012, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu put 40,000 ground troops on the border to show Hamas how far he was willing to go to get a ceasefire. This time around he may have to go further to check a Hamas campaign that is qualitatively different from that of 2012. Some Israeli analysts, like former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin, argue that a ground operation is “necessary, almost essential” to uncover the tunnel networks, which may prove impermeable to air attacks.
If Hamas is pacing its missile fire, it means they’re in it for the long haul. If they’re crossing red lines by firing missiles at Dimona as well as Ben Gurion airport, it means they’re going all out. The question is why.
Some analysts point to likely Iranian involvement— indeed use of the long-range M-302, not previously in the arsenal of Hamas, underscores that suggestion. It’s true that Hamas’s relations with Iran have been somewhat cooler since they fell out over the Syrian civil war (Hamas sided with their Sunni co-religionists; Tehran has thrown its full weight behind the Assad regime). But the Iranians have a lot of cards to play in Gaza, including Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions, as well as Hamas itself. As Israeli analyst Shimon Shapira commented recently, “Iran is more than capable of going over the head of Hamas’s political leadership and arming its military commanders directly.”
If Iran is not in fact driving the campaign, then Hamas may be putting on a demonstration for Tehran of how helpful it can be to the Islamic Republic. With Hezbollah tied down in Syria fighting alongside Assad, Hamas is more useful to Iran than ever—especially since Hamas is now in possession of long-range missiles capable of striking anywhere inside Israel, making it another tool of Iranian deterrence should the Israelis consider striking Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.
In other words, the strategic picture of the Middle East hasn’t changed one bit. As the Obama White House seeks to sign a permanent deal with Iran by July 20, the key threat not only to Israel but to American interests remains . . . Iran. Too bad the Obama administration can’t come to grips with that reality.
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