While the initial US reaction to Hamas’s unimaginable butchery on October 7 appeared to be unqualified support for the embattled Jewish state, recent developments suggest that support may not continue.
As the non-partisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies observed, “The Biden Administration is setting the stage to abandon Israel. [The initial policy of strong support] is deteriorating into ‘You don’t have our support unless you can dismantle Hamas very quickly with very limited civilian casualties.’ That’s impossible.”
Some suggest that the US’s fulsome support will continue unabated because America knows it is in its own best interests for Hamas to be defeated. Not everyone sees things that way. Over 200 Biden administration officials produced a letter opposing the administration’s level of support.
President Obama’s Middle East policy was to strengthen Iran as a counterbalance to Israel’s growing power in the region. Several of that policy’s authors, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, now hold influential positions in the Biden Administration.
Blinken’s absurd initial reaction to October 7 horrors
Blinken’s initial reaction to the October 7 horrors was an absurd tweet, later deleted, that Israel should not retaliate. More recently, while Blinken admits that “Hamas should not remain in control of Gaza,” he has emphasized “the imperative to the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south.” He asserts that Israel must take “more effective steps to protect the lives of civilians,” and calls on Israel to create “safe zones” for civilians near the fighting.
As we have seen, Hamas would not hesitate to embed its fighters within these safe zones. It would use hospitals and schools to store weapons and launch attacks, just as it did in northern Gaza. Blinken recognizes this possibility but says that protecting civilians would require “avoiding damage to life-critical infrastructure like hospitals.”
Thus, according to Blinken, Israel must do more to protect civilians but cannot evacuate them, and cannot prevent Hamas from hiding in key civilian infrastructure. Even worse, Israel must continue to allow humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza, even though Hamas is almost certain to commandeer much of these supplies, especially fuel, for its own use.
All of this is a recipe for disaster. The war is likely to drag on for months, with many Israeli soldiers needlessly being killed. Blinken had a response for that too. He said that Israel “did not have the credit” to fight for months to dismantle Hamas.
In essence, Blinken’s rules of engagement would create a safe haven for Hamas from which they could plan and launch future atrocities. This is consistent with the way Israel has been treated during previous defensive wars: We are allowed to stave off annihilation so long as we do not achieve a decisive permanent victory. Our enemies must live to fight another day.
HERE ARE some other troubling recent statements by American officials:
There have been repeated lectures by Biden, Blinken, and, most recently, Vice President Harris that Israel must follow the rules of war, as if Israel wasn’t already doing that.
Biden has said that too many civilians have died. He didn’t explain how many is “too many,” and what would be an acceptable number.
Vice President Harris said that the way Israel prosecutes the war “matters,” and that the number of civilian casualties is devastating. There was not a word about Hamas’s absolute responsibility for these casualties by using civilians as human shields.
Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, another Obama holdover, warned Israel against attacking the safe zones. Astonishingly, he failed to warn Hamas against taking refuge in those zones and using them for military purposes.
Within the past few days, Biden said that Hamas attacked Israel because they didn’t want to see peaceful relations between the Palestinians and Israel. He said that Israel’s continued fighting is giving Hamas a victory.
Similarly, Blinken tweeted, “To continue down the path of terror, violence, killing, and war is to give Hamas what they seek.” Allowing Hamas to survive as a fighting force would be an even greater victory, guaranteeing that they will continue to attack Israel in the future.
Some administration officials argue that the war will radicalize others to join Hamas. I don’t recall anyone suggesting that the US should not seek to destroy ISIS or al-Qaeda because it might radicalize others.
ONE OF the driving forces behind Biden’s foreign policy is fear that the war will escalate into a regional conflict. In an effort to appease the mullahs, he has allowed Iran to act with impunity rather than demonstrate that there is a serious downside to their terrorism.
Note the feckless US response to over 70 attacks on US military installations by Iranian proxies since mid-October. At the same time, Iran is allowed to sell its oil on the world market, using the proceeds to fund Hamas, Hezbollah, et al.
There is a domestic political angle to all of this. Biden is hemorrhaging young and Muslim voters. He needs their support if he has any hopes of winning reelection. That is why he has said almost nothing about the antisemitism raging on college campuses. And last week he hosted a gathering of Muslim-American leaders to whom he apologized for having doubted Hamas’s casualty figures. He now seems ready to accept without question casualty numbers provided by the Hamas-controlled Gazan health officials who have a history of lying and exaggerating these figures.
Taking all this together, it’s only a matter of time before Biden and Blinken pressure Israel to return to the status quo ante. Apparently, Israel is supposed to wait patiently until Hamas rearms and initiates another massacre, at which point they will wring their hands and say, “That’s too bad. We didn’t think they’d do that.”
For the safety of our citizens, indeed, for our very survival, we must ignore pressure from the US and other countries to agree to a premature ceasefire. We must defend ourselves with all of our might against those who have proven their desire to destroy us if given the chance.
Menachem Begin’s forceful rejoinder when then-senator Joe Biden threatened to cut off economic aid to Israel if it did not immediately cease its settlement activities is equally relevant today: “Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history.
“Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country.
“We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”
The writer is a former US diplomat now living in Zichron Ya’acov.