Obama, Iran and the Road to Gaza

We’re still living out the consequences of Obama’s worldview.

In 2014, Hamas kidnapped and killed three teens, including Naftali Frenkel, an American 16-year-old. “I’ve murdered three Jews,” the killer boasted.

As Israel battled Hamas, Obama called for a ceasefire. “I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza,” he argued, while describing the terrorists as having behaved “extraordinarily irresponsibly”.

“The US goal right now would be to make sure that the ceasefire holds, that Gaza can begin the process of rebuilding,” Obama said and urged that there needs to be “some prospects for an opening of Gaza so that they do not feel walled off.”

After the fighting died down, the Palestinian Authority asked for $4 billion to rebuild Gaza, the international community pledged $5.4 billion with $212 million of it coming from America.

“The people of Gaza do need our help, desperately,” Secretary of State John Kerry claimed.

The ceasefire which allowed Hamas to rearm and rebuild was one in a series that led directly to the horrors in the Israeli communities near Gaza attacked by the murderous Islamic group.

Obama’s pivot on Hamas was part of his pivot on the Muslim Brotherhood. When he delivered his ‘New Beginning’ speech in Cairo in 2009 , he specifically requested that the Muslim Brotherhood attend as he not only called for a ‘Palestinian’ terrorist state inside Israel and negotiations with Iran, but also legitimized Hamas which is an arm of the Brotherhood.

“Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities.  To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist,” he told an audience which included members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas responded warmly to the outreach. Hamas boss Khaled Mashaal praised “Obama’s new language towards Hamas” and described it as “the first step in the right direction.”

Obama had made a point of reaching out to Hamas and to both of its key backers: the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. On taking office, he had received letters from both Hamas, which “congratulated Mr. Obama on his presidency and reminded him that he should live up to his promise to bring real change to the region”, and from key national security figures, Brent Scowcroft, who provided advice to him, Chuck Hagel, his future defense secretary,

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s national security adviser, Paul Volcker, the head of Obama’s economic recovery board, along with other notables, urging him to talk to Hamas.

“I see no reason not to talk to Hamas,” Scowcroft, a longtime advocate of Iran appeasement, had argued. The national security figure was especially influential with Obama gushing, “I love that guy.” And what Obama offered was much better than words..

Earlier in 2009, the Obama administration promised to provide $900 million in aid to help “rebuild” Gaza after fighting that began when Hamas was caught digging a tunnel to kidnap Israelis. The donation was announced in Egypt by Hillary Clinton who promised that the money would not end up in the “wrong hands”, but made no mention of Hamas.

Despite that promise, Obama administration officials told Congress that the money needed to be allocated even if Hamas were to become part of a ‘unity’ government with the PLO. The unity government never happened. Instead, Hamas drew Israel into a series of clashes that ended with ceasefires and reconstructions funded by American aid that left the terrorists stronger.

In March 2014, Rob Malley, who had been dumped by the Obama campaign for his contacts with Hamas, was brought back in and made a senior National Security Council director and then the White House Coordinator for the Middle East. When Obama pressured Israel to stand down and accept a ceasefire after the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens, Malley was at the wheel. After Hamas survived, Malley moved on to become Obama’s lead negotiator on the Iran deal. He became Biden’s special envoy to Iran until he was sidelined when the FBI began investigating him for mishandling classified information.

Malley had described Hamas as a misunderstood organization victimized by “misinformation”.

When Obama took office, Iran was torn by internal strife and Hamas was struggling to hang on to Gaza. By the time he left office, Iran had benefited from sanctions relief and used that money to tighten its grip on Syria, Iraq and Yemen (not to mention Lebanon.) Obama’s Arab Spring delivered significant amounts of weapons and rockets to Gaza from Libya, By 2019, Hamas was receiving $30 million a month from Iran. More recently it benefited from the trade in weapons abandoned in Afghanistan. All the negotiations made Iran and Hamas much more powerful.

And this was not an accident.

The Hamas atrocities in the last day of the High Holy Days were a direct result of Obama’s foreign policy which empowered Islamists and undermined American allies. Hamas was the beneficiary of not only regular rebuilding programs after every clash with Israel, but of the newfound wealth and power of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Obama replaced Bush’s flawed agenda of democratizing enemy nations with something much worse, Islamizing allied nations. The Arab Spring and the Iran Deal had disastrous consequences for every allied country in the region. The effects on Israel were more subtle. It handled the Syrian Civil War on its border without being significantly affected by it and survived Egypt’s brief experiment with Muslim Brotherhood rule. Iran’s rise posed a grave threat, but also spurred some Arab Muslim Sunni enemy nations to form the Abraham Accords alliance.

And yet Obama’s foreign policy had a corrosive effect on Israel that few were aware of. Hamas rocket attacks increased in volume and range. Regular conflicts were settled with ceasefires. Israeli leaders came to rely on a defensive strategy, building up the Iron Dome program, while remaining confident that high tech tools, surveillance cameras, drones and sensors, would enable it to manage any crisis coming out of Gaza. That has proven to be disastrously wrong.

The mindset that made Israel so vulnerable came from the modus vivendi imposed by the Obama administration. Rather than trying to defeat or at least cripple Hamas, Obama had pressured Israel, as he had Egypt and the PLO, to make Hamas a partner. Israeli leaders were encouraged to find ways to incentivize good behavior by Hamas. Such programs led the previous leftist Israeli government to offer 20,000 work permits for Gazans to enter Israel.

Those Gazans scouted Israeli communities and took part in the brutal Hamas attacks.

Obama had corrupted both America and Israel into adopting the worldview that Islamic terrorism could not be defeated, only managed by making deals with even the worst possible terrorists. Hamas was treated as a rational actor which could be co-existed with as long as it had something tangible to gain from avoiding conflict. This same philosophy underlay the massive aid programs to rebuild Gaza after every war which provided Hamas with weapons and money.

It was and still is the philosophy behind the Iran Deal and in every attempt to reach an accommodation with Islamic terrorists. Foreign policy appeasers claimed to be realists and argued at every turn that the jihadists were reasonable and could be dealt with.

“We may disagree with them, but they have their own rationality, that’s the one thing to understand. These are not—none of them are crazies,” Rob Malley spoke of Hamas. “If you want to take Hamas at its word, its long-term objective is the destruction of Israel. But that’s not a practical or realistic goal, even for them,” Brent Scowcroft said dismissively.

The negotiations and agreements with Hamas and Iran, not to mention the Taliban, advocated by the realists fell apart badly. A political and military leadership, and diplomatic corps which had absorbed the nonsensical propositions of the realists was unable to see it coming. Its members refused to evacuate the embassy from Kabul until the very last minute because they were convinced that the Taliban were going to join a unity government. They are still trying to cut an interim nuclear deal with Iran. And they didn’t see a Hamas attack coming.

All the calculations of co-existence were wrong. The ideas that the Obama administration had passed off as reasonable, sensible and credible were actually delusions unmoored from reality.

“Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock,” Will Rogers had quipped.

That is still how our enemies practice diplomacy, but we keep saying ‘nice doggie’ without ever looking for a rock or realizing that we even need one. Saying ‘nice doggie’ has become a magical incantation that continues to be invoked no matter how often it fails.

Defeating Hamas and neutralizing Iran are more than military problems, they require the  unlearning of the foolishly dangerous ideas injected into the establishment under Obama.

Barack Obama opened the road to Gaza with his outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iran Deal. Closing the door on Hamas will require also closing the door on Obama’s legacy.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.


October 22, 2023 | Comments »

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