For a while there, it looked as if much of the world had accepted, or was at least considering, Israel’s argument for attacking and then invading Gaza this time – the third in six years.
First, Hamas rejected the Egypt-brokered cease-fire. To be sure, Hamas and Egypt are no longer friends since the army’s overthrow of Mohamed Morsi and the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Many serious analysts never expected Hamas to accept it. Still, it allowed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cast himself as the good actor, and Secretary of State John Kerry backed him up.
Then a chorus of comment followed, from left and right, accusing Hamas of sacrificing its citizens to its public relations effort to demonize Israel: former President Bill Clinton slammed Hamas for its "crass strategy."
Pundits David Brooks and E.J. Dionne shared similar sentiments during their Friday back-and-forth on NPR. President Barack Obama said that no country could be expected to take the kind of rocket fire Israel has endured.
Leaders in the wider Arab world, which in the past have been quick to make their voices heard opposing Israeli actions against Gaza, were more quiet this time. Ziad Asali, founding president of the American Task Force on Palestine, attributed the “muted” reaction to Hamas’ desperation due to its loss of its Egyptian partner. To be sure, Palestinian sympathizers all over the world have gathered to protest the action.
On Saturday, the New York Times ran an analysis saying that “the landscape is different” this time, and that Bibi’s strategy of framing the campaign as an initiative focused on taking out “terrorist” tunnels was a savvy one.
Then, Sunday, in Shejaya. Israel is still talking tunnels, but the numbers are also telling the story. The Palestinian death toll topped 500. The United Nations says over 100,000 Palestinians – almost six percent of the population – have been displaced.
The optics are not good. At least, not as good as they were the day before yesterday.