A former Clinton administration official believes President Obama is doing a pretty good job responding to the immediate Middle East crisis, but is decidedly unimpressed with the administration’s overall Middle East policy and its attempt to establish a moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Larry Haas was spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Clinton administration. He is now a columnist who writes frequently about the Middle East and is also the author of “Sound the Trumpet: The United States and Human Right Promotion.”
Haas told WND it’s only a matter of time before the Obama administration and other world leaders declare the Israeli military action has gone on long enough and demand a cease-fire. He says Israel should ignore those calls until Hamas is dealt a “mortal blow” and other long-term goals are met.
“It has to send a signal to its own people in southern Israel that it’s going to protect them. That is the fundamental thing a government needs to do for its own people, provide them safety and security. So I hope that Israel does not let up until it really delivers a blow that Hamas either will never recover from or will not recover from for a very long time,” he said.
Haas is also not impressed by an Obama editorial in the the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in which the president asserted that the recent murder of three Israeli teenagers was not cause for retaliation but for a new commitment to a two-state solution in the region.
“There’s a little too much moral equivalency in the writing of that piece,” he said, quickly adding that outside of that article, he believes the administration has been “quite good” in its response to the crisis.
“They have made it abundantly clear that the problem is on the Palestinian side, specifically with Hamas, that Israel is defending itself as any other nation would, that no nation should have to live under a constant barrage of rocket fire,” said Haas, noting that the current military action would be happening even if the teenagers had never been murdered. He says weeks and months of incessant rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel required a response.
While giving the administration credit for its reaction to current events, Haas says Obama’s overall Middle East policy leaves much to be desired.
“In a larger sense this administration has not been good. They have leaned much too much on Israel and they’ve made Israel the actual impediment to peace, talking about final borders and the settlement issue,” said Haas.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, was the first prominent voice to call for an end to U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinians once Hamas was welcomed back as a governing partner in the Palestinian Authority. He’ll get no argument from Haas.
“It is absolutely intolerable that the United States would be sending aid to a government that is, at least in part, run by an organization dedicated to the destruction of one of our key allies. I don’t see how we provide aid under those circumstances,” he said.
While Haas says giving taxpayer dollars to a government that includes Hamas constitutes a fool’s errand, he says the track record of Fatah really isn’t much better.
“It is not as clear of a distinction between Hamas and Fatah as we would like to believe it is,” he said. “Fatah is considered the more moderate of the two outfits here, and I suppose that’s true, but they have not really held themselves up very well in the recent conflict. They have not really broken with Hamas. They have glorified the fight on the Palestinian side.”
The re-emergence of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority also means any meaningful peace negotiations cannot happen anytime in the near future.
“I don’t see how any serious person can believe that we can have fruitful negotiations with another government which contains an entity that is dedicated to the destruction of the other partner across the table. I just don’t see how logic would allow for such a thing,” said Haas.
Earlier this week, Obama’s coordinator for the Middle East, Philip Gordon, told a conference in Israel that it is incumbent upon Israel to forge progress toward peace and the creation of a Palestinian state.
Haas is having none of that. He says President Clinton proved in the final year of his presidency that the Palestinians have no interest in any settlement that respects the existence of Israel.
“Israel offered the Palestinians 97 percent of what they said they wanted at the end of the Clinton administration in 2000. They walked away because they’re not prepared to make peace. Those who burden Israel with the task of making peace singularly are completely off base.”