After the alleged “seizing” of Israeli Defense Force soldier 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin during a unilateral cease-fire in Gaza on Friday, the White House issued one if its strongest statements condemning Hamas since the conflict began July 8.
“That would be a rather barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement. Hamas is entirely responsible for upholding their end of the bargain, and it’s apparent that they did not do that,” White House Correspondent Josh Earnest told CNN. “We certainly have steadfastly defended Israel’s right to defend themselves and we defend Israel’s right to respond to this barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement.”
This unwavering support for Israel came as quite a change of pace from last week, when President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’ and made it clear that he wanted an unconditional and immediate cease-fire, despite Netanyahu's desire to finish the operation and destroy the “terror tunnels.”
“Administration has had trouble figuring out what to say about the civilian causalities in Gaza,” said Elliot Abrams senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council On Foreign Relations, adding that he didn’t think Israel would respond well to that kind of public condemnation.
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The president changed tone on Friday. In a press briefing, he said that Israel was absolutely right that the Hamas tunnels need to be dismantled. Barack Obama reiterated Israel’s right to defend themselves and said that civilians are dying because Hamas is hiding rockets underneath them. He even said that a cease-fire might be too difficult to achieve now.
"I think it's going to be very hard to put a ceasefire back together again if Israelis and the international community can't feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a ceasefire commitment," Obama said.
Rather than signaling a shift in President Obama’s stance on Israel and the current clashes in Gaza, experts suggest that it might have to do more with his hardening for Hamas.
“The subject isn’t Israel, its Hamas. You can understand, it’s a terrorist group were talking about,”.
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization and neither the U.S. nor Israel consider it to be a legitimate negotiating partner. However, Abrams said that both Israel and the State Department know that at some point, they’ll have to talk to Hamas in order to end this.
However, using strong language such as “barbaric” led Abrams to believe that “at the white house, they’re not thinking about it.”
According to Abrams, Netanyahu and Obama have had a shaky relationship for the last five years, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the Israeli prime minister’s action, rather just a difference between a democratic government in the U.S. and a right-wing Likud government in Israel.