It happens occasionally, but only rarely. All the good options suddenly seem to have failed at once. The only thing left is to just spread your cards across the table -- and play this hand faceup.
The truth is, this happens far more at a negotiation table than a card table. Another truth is it has just happened to Israel -- and Israel’s forever kibitzer and guarantor, the United States – in yet another cruel crisis in Gaza.
Israel and its staunchest ally must now show their most convincing visible proof to support their assertions that the devastation Israel inflicted on al-Shifa Hospital patients was justified because Hamas used Gaza’s largest hospital as an underground military command center.
It’s time for Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and America’s President Joe Biden to play their cards face up -- for all the world to see.
We’ll explain why after we put today’s crisis into its chronological consequence. This crisis was ignited Oct. 7 when the Hamas terrorists who rule Gaza invaded Israel and slaughtered and kidnapped Israeli civilians. Hamas did all that just to goad Israel into a massive and lengthy retaliation that would kill many more Palestinian civilians in Gaza – and turn world opinion against Israel.
Israel did just what Hamas expected. And, just as Hamas also expected: Global news screens first showed one day of horrific news about Hamas’ slaughter and kidnapping of Israeli hostages. But now, for more than a month, they have been pouring videos of the ongoing plight of Gaza’s Palestinians, desperately fleeing Israel’s retaliation. The world has been watching what happened because Israel cut off Gaza’s water, fuel and medical supplies for Gaza hospitals. Also the world has heard Israel’s defense forces claiming Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields -- and uses hospitals to shield its underground military command centers and arsenals.
But while the world has seen weeks of Gaza patients suffering in darkened hospitals that Israeli forces are now occupying, global viewers haven’t yet seen convincing visual proof that Hamas has military headquarters and arsenals underground.
And now that must change.
We remember past crises in which America’s leaders famously decided to play their cards faceup -- so all the world could see proof of abhorrent conduct and halt it.
We recall the Kennedy administration’s 1962 Cuban missile crisis -- when America’s legendary ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, famously showed the UN Security Council and the world compelling photographic proof that the Soviet Union was installing missiles in Cuba, just 150 kilometers from the USA. The Soviets withdrew their missiles.
But we also remember when President George W. Bush’s vice president, Richard Cheney, had his staff prepare a famously flawed speech that Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered at the United Nations, inaccurately contending that intelligence proved Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Powell later called it “painful” and a “blot” on his career.
Fast-forward to now. After Israeli troops occupied Gaza’s massive al-Shifa Hospital compound this week, the initial evidence that Israel showed the world appeared to be nothing like an underground command center, arsenal and tunnel network that Israel’s military and leaders had been telling the world Hamas had built there. Israel released a video showing 11 guns, three military vests, nine grenades. That’s all military stuff– but it certainly doesn’t constitute a command headquarters. Later Israel showed more guns and grenades -- and a hole that could be a rough, makeshift tunnel shaft.
US officials declared this week, for the first time, that America also has intelligence supporting Israel’s previous statements that Hamas hid a military command center and arsenals under hospitals including al-Shifa. Wednesday, Biden went further, telling reporters:
“Here’s the situation: You have a circumstance where the first war crime is being committed by Hamas by having their headquarters, their military hidden under a hospital. And that’s a fact.” As Biden left his brief press conference, another reporter asked, “Can you just detail for us what kind of evidence the US has seen that Hamas has a command center under Al-Shifa Hospital?”
“No, I can’t tell you,” Biden replied. “I won’t tell you.” Asked again, if he believes Hamas uses the hospital as an underground command center, Biden simply said, “Yes” – and left.
The world deserves more than that. For a month, we have been watching as the Israeli retaliation has killed 11,000 Gaza civilians, including 4,600 children. It is a war crime to attack a hospital. But is there proof that an actual command headquarters exists under al-Shifa Hospital that could justify this careful targeting?
Now is the time for Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu and/or America’s Joe Biden to have their own Adlai Stevenson moment, for all the world to see. And let’s all hope it doesn’t instead prove to be a Colin Powell “blot.”
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. --Ed.
(Tribune Content Agency)