Secretary Condoleezza Rice leaves a dangerous mess in the Middle East for the incoming Secretary Hillary Clinton of which the war in Gaza is but one part.
Three wars are going on in the Middle East: One in Gaza between Israel and Hamas; another amongst the Palestinians, between Fatah and Hamas; and the third and wider struggle is between the radical Islamists, including Iran, and the Sunni Arab countries in the Gulf, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc. Essentially, the radical Islamists have set about to destroy Western and US interests in the Middle East and seek to transform the moderate Arab regimes into radical Islamist states.
Were Hamas to succeed in getting such a vacuous ceasefire it would proclaim victory and continue its murderous ways, to the joy of Iran and the radicals in the region.
These wars all intersect in the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. Hamas is a deadly enemy of Fatah whose rule they wish to overturn in the West Bank and therefore establish a platform from which to eliminate Israel. It is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and thus a direct enemy of Egypt. It is also a radical terrorist state, funded, armed, and trained by Iran and part of the radical Islamist agenda in the region.
Let’s be clear about Hamas. Their covenant describes their purpose, which is “to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Under Hamas, Gaza has become a home for every brand of radical Islamists engaged in a Holy War, sanctifying bloodshed, glorifying murder, and educating children to die as martyrs. Over and over again they insist they will never recognize Israel or honor any of their existing agreements with the infidels.
The US, as represented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has been consistently on the wrong side in all of these concerns. The climax was her part in the resolution in the UN calling for an end to the war in Gaza for which she herself bears some responsibility. Let the record show:
STRIKE ONE: When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005-6 Secretary Rice overrode strong Israeli objections to turning over the strip of land between Gaza and Egypt known as the Philadelphia corridor. Why? Because Israel knew that without effective control of this land strip it would become, as it did, the passageway for the importation into Gaza of weapons and terrorists. Tons of ammunition did come into Gaza to support Hamas’ radical ambitions while Islamic Jihad terrorists crossed freely between Gaza and Egypt and, from there, to Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq for training.
STRIKE TWO: Both Mahmoud Abbas, the PA leader, and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon advised the US that Hamas should not be allowed to take part of the election of 2006 since Hamas had no intention of running a normal democracy (or even a normal campaign) and sought only to exploit Gaza as a base for a two-front war with Fatah. On one level the vote was democratic but with none of the values or conditions that should be associated with pursuing a democracy in the region (such as the respect minorities, the rule of law and free speech). What it did was to legitimize Hamas as a political force. And their respect for democratic rights has been manifest since in the killings of opponents and in the staging of violent coup in Gaza when supporters of the Palestinian Authority were thrown from roofs.
STRIKE THREE: Secretary Rice assisted in the impetuous drafting of the recent dangerously short-sighted ceasefire resolution at the UN. It should have dismayed anyone who claims to be moved by the sufferings of the Palestinian people inflicted on them by Hamas’ deliberate provocation of Israel. Were Hamas to succeed in getting such a vacuous ceasefire it would proclaim victory and continue its murderous ways, to the joy of Iran and the radicals in the region.
Any ceasefire must involve cast-iron guarantees that would decisively end the smuggling of arms into Gaza and ensure not just that the firing of rockets would stop for now, but stop for good. Without such guarantees, as the US National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, has said, it would be “a prescription for the resumption of hostilities at some point in the future.” These conditions were absent in the resolution.
Furthermore, it virtually would have precluded the possibility of a Middle East peace process that involves land for peace. Why? If the international community will not permit Israel to respond to ceaseless terror, launched from lands from which Israel has pulled back, what incentive is there for Israel to withdraw anywhere? It would be suicidal. This is especially true of the West Bank, which would become a launching pad for terror and rockets and missiles that could land in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Ben Gurion Airport. Israel would be uninhabitable.
Hamas, of course, will fight tooth and nail to retain this terror option. That is why it has to be defanged. So how could the US lead to a resolution that would contribute to everything we don’t wish for in the Middle East?
To provide Hamas with such a victory would undermine the Palestinian Authority and whatever popular support the Mahmoud Abbas/Salam Fayed PA government enjoys in the West Bank.
Fortunately, the US finally abstained from this counterproductive UN resolution but only after the President changed the instructions to his Secretary of State. Even then, it was a serious misjudgment that still caused significant political damage, and for this we must give credit where credit is due, to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
A little humility should be in order on the part of the Secretary of State.
The incoming Secretary must make sure that any UN resolution would contribute to, and not undermine, our real allies and our objectives in the Middle East.
Mortimer B. Zuckerman is the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of U.S. News & World Report and is the publisher of the New York Daily News. He is also the co-founder and Chairman of Boston Properties Inc. He is a trustee of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a member of the J.P. Morgan National Advisory Board, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Washington Institute for Near East Studies and the International Institute of Strategic Studies.