The Israeli invasion of Gaza, launched Saturday, might very well be George W. Bush’s last and final war crime. For eight years, Bush has coupled unparalled ignorance of the Middle East with supreme arrogance. It is precisely that deadly combination of ignorance and arrogance that is on display now, as a politically motivated Israeli invasion of Gaza unfolds with the full support of the Bush administration.
In his weekly radio address, delivered as Israeli tanks and armor rumbled into the Gaza Strip, Bush declared:
“This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas — a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction. … Another one-way ceasefire that leads to rocket attacks on Israel is not acceptable. And promises from Hamas will not suffice — there must be monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end. I urge all parties to pressure Hamas to turn away from terror.”
A more sweeping endorsement of Israel’s action is hard to imagine. Writing in the Post, columnist Jim Hoagland, a reliable, neoconservative-allied scribbler, describes it this way:
“He did not just give Israel a green light to inflict as much damage as possible on Hamas once that radical movement foolishly renounced a six-month-old truce. Bush knocked down the traffic light post and waved the Israelis through the intersection.”
Personally, I find Hamas despicable. It is a right-wing Islamist group with open terrorist inclinations, motivated by a fanciful notion that it can defeat Israel with its pinprick attacks. I’ve also written extensively, including in my book, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, how Israel created Hamas systematically and deliberately during the 1970s and 1980s, building up the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Yassin’s proto-Hamas movement as a counterweight to Fatah.
But Israel could easily have absorbed the rockets launched by Hamas, nearly all of which crash harmlessly in remote areas, if it had truly sought to work out an accommodation with the Palestinians. Most important, Israel could have endorsed and supported efforts by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others to create a lasting accord between Hamas and Fatah. Instead, Israel did the opposite, meeting each of Hamas’ acts of violence with far greater violence of its own.