There’s no shortage of folks offering you advice, especially when it comes to the Middle East, but permit me to propose an idea you may not have heard before, one that’s much simpler to achieve than engineering all-out peace and one that will earn you the sort of gratitude and praise you rarely receive these days: Bring Hadar Goldin home.
As you may recall, on August 1, 2014, a few hours into the U.S. and UN brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian terrorists took advantage of the lull in the fighting and snuck into Israel through one of their nightmarish terror tunnels. They killed two Israeli soldiers and abducted Goldin, a young IDF lieutenant, almost certainly killing him as well.
This blunt violation of an internationally sanctioned agreement so infuriated John Kerry, the Secretary of State at the time, that he issued an uncommonly strong statement. “The United States,” it read, “condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s attack, which led to the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the apparent abduction of another. It was an outrageous violation of the ceasefire negotiated over the past several days, and of the assurances given to the United States and the United Nations. Hamas, which has security control over the Gaza Strip, must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier, and I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message.”
Sadly, no such thing ever happened. Hamas continues to hold Goldin’s body, along with that of another IDF soldier murdered by Hamas, Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul. Both men are being denied their final resting place, a violation not only of international law but also of basic human decency.
President Obama, who you’ve often criticized for being insufficiently resolute in asserting America’s interests and influence around the world, failed to bring Goldin back home. You now have a chance to do him one better.
You may want to start by calling President al-Sisi of Egypt, who you’ve frequently praised and who, just last month, complimented you by saying that America has already regained its influence in the region thanks to your efforts. Earlier this year, Egypt brokered the peace talks between Hamas and the PLO; you may want to call your friend in Cairo and tell him that you consider the return of Goldin and Shaul a top American priority, and suggest that he exert pressure accordingly. If you succeed, your accomplishment will be more than just symbolic: It will also signal to Hamas’ paymasters in Teheran that you mean all that talk about curbing Iran’s regional ambitions, even if you have not yet repealed your predecessor’s dangerous deal with the Mullahs.
If rumors are to be believed, you may move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this week, or at least make some gesture in that general direction. And your team, led by your son-in-law Jared Kushner, is reportedly at work on a plan to rekindle talks between Israel and the Palestinians. These are important efforts, but insisting on the bodies of two slain soldiers returning home to their loved ones should come first. As a father, and as a leader who has always expressed the deepest admiration for our fighting forces, I’m sure you can empathize with the anguish the Goldin and Shaul families are feeling now that a cowardly and evil gang of terrorists are holding their fallen sons hostage.
As the year draws to an end, Mr. President, let’s hope that you could do what Obama and Kerry never could, and win the gratitude of Jews and decent people everywhere by bringing these boys back home.