The battle for Gaza wil not be won at Kerem Shalom, but in Washington. Hamas' attack on IDF forces a few hours before the start of the Pesach holiday contributed to putting the Democrats on the defensive, as well as reminding us of the futility of American attempts to promote a peace agreement between two powerless leaders: Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, whose real influence is not much greater than that of retiree volunteer Jimmy Carter.
Carter was the first U.S. president to lose his bid for reelection since Herbert Hoover, who lost out on a second term in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression. One of the main factors in Carter's loss to Ronald Reagan, in 1980, was his failure to free, whether by diplomacy or force, the U.S. hostages who had been held for a year by the Khomeini youth in Tehran (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was there, too).
Carter came to teach Israel how to bargain with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit. And while he was meeting with the father of the bride, Khaled Meshal - without the agreement of the Israeli groom - Hamas attacked in Kerem Shalom. Whether the attack was carried out with Meshal's knowledge and approval or not, this was a stinging humiliation for Carter. And if Ahmad Jabari and Muhamad Deif, of the Hamas military wing in Gaza, carried out the attack without Meshal's approval, then in any event the latter is not the address for a deal.
On a personal level, Carter has nothing left to lose; but his visit to Meshal certainly hurt his preferred presidential candidate, Barack Obama. Maybe not today, in Obama's fight against Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, but certainly in the future, in his battle against John McCain, if Obama wins the Democratic nomination.
McCain's campaign struck at Obama on the even of the Hamas attack. In his debate with Clinton last week, Obama refused - as is his custom - to condemn Carter for meeting with "the Hamas terror group, a group is supported financially, politically and militarily by Iran." The same Iran whose president is calling for the destruction of Israel, accused McCain, and stole the headline from Hamas political leader Ahmed Yousef, who had said of his organization: "We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election."
The difference is clear, McCain said. He wanted to say, here is an evil square: Iran-Hamas-Carter-Obama. He also meant: If Obama is like Carter, the weak loser, then McCain is like Reagan, his idol, and all that is left is to rerun the election results from 1980.
If McCain wins, he will be the first former regular military officer elected since Carter. Both graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Carter excelled and finished in the top 10 percent of his class. McCain goofed off and finished at the bottom of his class.
George W. Bush still rules in Washington, but his declarations of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement this year are evaporating. At the end of the Annapolis summit, last November, Bush and Condoleezza Rice announced the appointment of William Fraser, an air force three-star general, to oversee the road map, to be added to his job as assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon.
In four months, the ambitious Fraser has achieved a sum total of nothing. Not a single illegal outpost has been moved, no conflict has been resolved. Fraser has spent some time roaming the region, met with the prime minister of (half) the Palestinian government, Salam Fayyad, and hurried up to leave the region before being stained with failure, like his predecessors. Last Saturday Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the news that Fraser will be awarded his fourth star, and a new post, head of the transportation command.
Gates also announced that Fraser's present position, as assistant to the Joint Chiefs chair, will go to Major General Paul Selva, now director of strategic planning for the air force. Gates did not say whether Selva's job will include Fraser's Middle Eastern missions, but it is clear that both will be very busy from now on preparing for their new posts, and first and foremost in achieving Senate approval for their new appointments. But there is no fear that without the two the Israelis and Palestinians will forget how to quarrel.
McCain, who visited rocket-bombarded Sderot, and expressed his identification, as a former prisoner of war, with the suffering of the families of the abducted IDF soldiers, represents a clear and firm line against terror. The Democrats are tottering after him in half silence: According to their view, Al-Qaida also certainly had a moderate wing, which on September 11 supported knocking down only one of the twin towers in Manhattan.
Khomeini chose Reagan, and freed the hostages the moment he was sworn in as president. Meshal, Jabari and Deif are now working for McCain. This may yet do some good for the hopes of peace.
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