The ongoing Israeli military action against Hamas has produced some important political realignments.
American liberals are divided, rather visibly, between those who blame Israel and those who support it.
Amazingly, American Christian groups have been more vocal in supporting Israel than is AIPAC, so you know something is afoot. When Ted Cruz gets ahead of Chuck Schumer in denouncing the FAA for stopping all flights into Tel Aviv, you know something is shifting.
From Andrew Sullivan to Jonathan Chait to Jonathan Friedland to Naomi Wolf to The Economist (et tu, Economist) some people on the left blame Israel for failing to negotiate with Hamas.
None dare call it anti-Semitism, but the evidence does not easily lend itself to another conclusion. Is there anything about Hamas that affirms the values that these thinkers pretend to hold? One might say that your political alliances say more about your values than your bloviating.
And then, of course, the Obama administration is trying to be even-handed. Yet, it arrives at a position that is identical to that of Hamas. What would you expect from Jeremiah Wright’s protégé? I’m sure you recall that Wright’s church newsletter used to print propaganda screeds by Hamas.
Be this as it may, the second most important political alignment is happening in the Middle East itself. For once Israel is not alone in its fight against Islamist terrorism. It has been joined by Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf Emitares and Saudi Arabia.
Among those supporting Hamas are Turkey, Qatar and Iran. For reasons that escape everyone the Obama administration seems to have turned toward Turkey and Qatar and away from Israel and Egypt.
Whether this new alliance is anything more than a temporary convenience, it suggests that some major players in the region are more opposed to Hamas than they are to Israel.
The New York Times presented the best account of this story. Written by David Kirkpatrick it explained clearly the geopolitical realignment that has been produced by the current conflict.
After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip….
“The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington and a former Middle East negotiator under several presidents.
“I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas,” he said. “The silence is deafening.”
I think it fair to say that the crack Obama-Kerry foreign policy team was caught flatfooted:
Although Egypt is traditionally the key go-between in any talks with Hamas — deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel — the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions.
But as commentators sympathetic to the Palestinians slammed the proposal as a ruse to embarrass Hamas, Egypt’s Arab allies praised it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to “the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible.”
And then, there was the Arab Spring. When it first broke out, I believed that the most important question was whether or not the crack Obama-Clinton foreign policy team could manage it.
Turns out, they could not.
Their betrayal of Mubarak, enthusiastic embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, their mishandling of the situation in Libya showed the Middle East that Obama’s America was on the wrong side of history.
Kirkpatrick has an important observation about the Arab Spring:
The dynamic has inverted all expectations of the Arab Spring uprisings. As recently as 18 months ago, most analysts in Israel, Washington and the Palestinian territories expected the popular uprisings to make the Arab governments more responsive to their citizens, and therefore more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more hostile to Israel.
But instead of becoming more isolated, Israel’s government has emerged for the moment as an unexpected beneficiary of the ensuing tumult, now tacitly supported by the leaders of the resurgent conservative order as an ally in their common fight against political Islam.
Of course, many Gulf nations are aligning themselves with Israel because they believe that Iran poses the greatest threat to them. As it happens, this alignment has been ongoing for some time:
Egypt and other Arab states, especially the Persian Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are finding themselves allied with Israel in a common opposition to Iran, a rival regional power that has a history of funding and arming Hamas.
Barack Obama and John Kerry were unprepared:
For Washington, the shift poses new obstacles to its efforts to end the fighting. Although Egyptian intelligence agencies continue to talk with Hamas, as they did under former President Hosni Mubarak and Mr. Morsi, Cairo’s new animosity toward the group has called into question the effectiveness of that channel, especially after the response to Egypt’s first proposal.
As a result, Secretary of State John Kerry turned to the more Islamist-friendly states of Qatar and Turkey as alternative mediators — two states that grew in regional stature with the rising tide of political Islam after the Arab Spring, and that have suffered a degree of isolation as that tide has ebbed.
But that move has put Mr. Kerry in the incongruous position of appearing to some analysts as less hostile to Hamas — and thus less supportive of Israel — than Egypt or its Arab allies.
Foreign policy is extremely complicated and extremely difficult. It is no place for amateurs.
As a footnote, CNN just published its own story about the region’s political realignment:
"This is unprecedented in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict," says CNN's Ali Younes, an analyst who has covered the region for decades. "Most Arab states are actively supporting Israel against the Palestinians -- and not even shy about it or doing it discreetly."
It's a "joint Arab-Israeli war consisting of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia against other Arabs -- the Palestinians as represented by Hamas."
"The Israel-Hamas conflict has laid bare the new divides of the Middle East," says Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. "It's no longer the Muslims against the Jews. Now it's the extremists -- the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, and their backers Iran, Qatar and Turkey -- against Israel and the more moderate Muslims including Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia."
"It's a proxy war for control or dominance in the Middle East," says CNN's Fareed Zakaria….
From the perspective of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE and some other Arab states, what the Israeli Prime Minister is doing is fighting this war against Hamas on their behalf so they can finish the last stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood," Younes says.
"Arab governments and official Arab media have all but adopted the Israeli view of who is a terrorist and who is not. Egyptian and Saudi-owned media are liberal in labeling the Muslim Brotherhood as 'terrorists' and describing Hamas as a 'terrorist organization.' It's a complete turnabout from the past, when Arab states fought Israel and the U.S. in the international organizations on the definition of terrorism, and who is a terrorist or a 'freedom fighter.'"
Surely, this is important news. It’s good to see the mainstream media covering it.