Thursday, Apr 11, 2024

Biden and Netanyahu Clashing Over the End Game in Gaza

 

The Israeli war cabinet and senior Israeli military officials unanimously agreed not to send a high-level negotiating team to Cairo last Sunday after receiving word through Qatar that Hamas had rejected an Israeli demand that it submit a complete list of the hostages it took on October 7 who are still alive, before negotiating any further on the latest framework for a temporary cease-fire and hostage release deal that was worked out between the U.S., Egypt, Qatar, and Israel in Paris the week before. The framework called for an initial six-week truce in Gaza, during which 40 of the living hostages, including women, children, the elderly, and the sick, would be released in exchange for Israel’s release of 400 Palestinian security prisoners. Hamas also initially refused Israel’s demand that it disclose which and how many Palestinian terrorists it wanted to be set free from Israeli prisons in return for each hostage to be released.

Without that crucial information, the Israeli war cabinet and military leaders decided there was no way that the negotiations in Cairo could result in an agreement, and that there was no point in raising false expectations by sending the Israeli negotiating team.

On Sunday, hopes for a quick agreement on a truce for the month of Ramadan were further damaged by Hamas politburo member Basim Naim, who said during a BBC interview conducted in Istanbul, that Hamas cannot give Israel a current list of names and a status report on the remaining hostages it took on October 7 because, “technically and practically, it is now impossible to know exactly who is still alive and who has been killed because of the Israeli bombardment or who has been killed because of starvation because of the Israeli blockade.”

Nain added that the Israeli hostages still in Gaza “are in different areas with different groups and therefore we have called for a cease-fire to be able to collect the data.” That is, of course, a totally unacceptable response to Israel’s reasonable request for the basic information needed to complete the proposed swap of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

Nevertheless, Naim repeated Hamas demands for a permanent end to the war and a commitment to a complete Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza as conditions for its agreement to the initial six-week truce.

Meanwhile, an unnamed senior Arab leader was quoted by the Arab World Press, which is based in London, Dubai, Cairo, and Riyadh, as claiming that Hamas has told the negotiators which prisoners it wants to be released from Israeli jails, including at least 20 now serving life prison sentences, but without releasing any of their names. As a result, the Hamas leader claimed “the ball is [now] in Israel’s court” with regard to the completion of the truce and hostage release talks.

DASHED HOPES FOR A QUICK TRUCE AND HOSTAGE RELEASE DEAL

Earlier last week, hopes had risen that the six-week truce based upon the Paris proposal would pave the way for further deals to release the remaining hostages, living and dead, in return for longer pauses in the fighting and more Palestinian prisoner releases. The Paris framework was patterned on the week-long truce in late November that brought about the incremental daily release of a total of 105 civilian hostages in exchange for the freeing of 240 Palestinian security prisoners from Israeli jails. That truce ended when Hamas was no longer willing to release the agreed-upon daily number of hostages.

Israel has also announced that it has grounds to believe that at least 31 of the 130 hostages still held by Hamas are now dead, and it suspects that at least 20 more may also have been killed. That is why Israel is demanding that Hamas identify by name and reveal the current status of all the remaining hostages, as either alive or dead, before engaging in any further negotiations over the current cease-fire proposal worked out in Paris.

However, a Hamas official told a British-based Qatari news outlet that before the terrorists will submit the names of the hostages still in its custody, and reveal whether they are alive or dead, “a big price must be paid [by Israel] in terms of alleviating the suffering of the people of Gaza and establishing a cease-fire.”

After the media reported last week that Israel had accepted the general terms of the Paris framework, and that “the ball is in the court of Hamas,” President Biden went so far as to publicly speculate that the initial cease-fire could be in place as soon as this past Monday.

But it was not to be. Not only had Hamas refused to disclose the status of the remaining hostages or its demands for the release of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails, CNN reported that it had been told by a Hamas official that Israel must also stop its attacks and withdraw from Gaza, which Israel insists it will not do until Hamas is destroyed. Hamas leaders have also demanded that humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza be stepped up to 400-500 truckloads per day and that over a million displaced civilian residents be allowed to return to their homes in northern Gaza, where they can resume their prior role as human shields for Hamas.

BIDEN FORCED TO BACKTRACK ON HIS EARLY TRUCE PREDICTION

After it became clear that Hamas would not provide the information Israel demanded before agreeing to continue negotiations, Biden admitted last Friday that his Monday prediction for reaching a cease-fire agreement was too optimistic, but still held out hope for some kind of truce agreement to be put in place by the start of Ramadan.

Reports out of Cairo over the weekend on continuing talks between representatives of Egypt, Qatar, and the United States, despite the absence of Israeli negotiators, claimed that slow progress towards a truce was being made, and a Wall Street Journal report suggested the possibility of an agreement being reached “by the first weekend of Ramadan.”

The Axios news site reported President Joe Biden was pushing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to get Hamas to agree to a temporary ceasefire deal before Ramadan, and that all three had, “agreed the onus is currently on Hamas to close remaining gaps in the [truce] package.”

However, other reports from Israeli news sources, including Ynet and Channel 12, claim that the leader of Hamas inside Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, who is believed to be in hiding in Gaza and who has been out of touch with Egyptian and Qatari truce negotiators for more than a week, is unwilling to accept any truce agreement in the near term. The New York Times reported that the last message sent to the Hamas political leadership in Qatar from Sinwar said there should be no rush to secure any hostage deal with Israel now. Instead, Sinwar is said to be planning to renew Hamas attacks in Gaza, in the West Bank, and on the Har HaBayis, throughout the month of Ramadan. It was reported that Sinwar hopes to ignite a general Palestinian uprising against Israel during Ramadan, which is traditionally a period of high tension over any limitations Israel imposes on Muslim access to the al-Aksa mosque, and that the uprising will force Israel to give in to Hamas demands for an immediate and permanent end to the war in Gaza, and a withdrawal of all Israeli troops. That is why Israel’s security forces will be on heightened alert during the period.

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS ATTACKS ISRAEL AGAIN

However, back in the United States, Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at an event commemorating the notorious 1965 attack at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, by Alabama state troopers on civil rights demonstrators, issued some of the Biden administration’s harshest criticisms yet of Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza. She implied that Israel was responsible for the fact that “people in Gaza are starving, the conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act. Our hearts break for… all the innocent people in Gaza who are suffering from what is clearly a humanitarian catastrophe. . .

“Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate cease-fire, for at least the next six weeks, which is what currently is on the table.”

She added that “the Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses. They must open new border crossings. They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid.”

While President Biden has continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself by attacking Hamas in Gaza and sending it more American-made armaments to do so, the Wall Street Journal reports Vice President Harris has been pushing the White House to express “more empathy for Palestinians,” and reaching out to left-wing Democrats and American Muslim groups that have been highly critical of Biden’s support for Israel. These groups supported a protest vote against Biden for uncommitted delegates in the Michigan Democrat primary last week.

Harris was similarly critical of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza in a speech she delivered in the Persian Gulf city of Dubai in December, when she declared that, “too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating.”

In her comments in Alabama Sunday, Harris did assign some of the responsibility for the delay in reaching a truce agreement to Hamas. “Hamas claims it wants a cease-fire,” she said. “Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a cease-fire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families, and let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.”

THE WHITE HOUSE ROLLS OUT THE RED CARPET FOR BENNY GANTZ

The next day, Vice President Harris was one of several senior Biden administration officials who met in Washington, D.C., with visiting Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, who according to Israeli opinion polls, is the most likely replacement for Prime Minister Netanyahu when the next Knesset election is held after the war in Gaza is over. Gantz, who is the chairman of the Israeli National Unity party, did not clear his visit to Washington in advance with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the warm reception that he received from Biden administration officials is widely viewed as a signal to Israeli voters about Biden’s unhappiness with Netanyahu’s policies.

Qatar’s prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who has played a central role in the hostage negotiations, also participated with Vice President Harris in the talks with Gantz in Washington on Monday.

As the war continues, the frantic family members of the hostages who fear that their loved ones are unlikely to survive much longer in Hamas custody, have stepped up their demonstrations calling upon the Israeli government to immediately agree to Hamas’ terms for a cease-fire in order to secure a hostage-prisoner exchange.

ATTACK ON A GAZA AID CONVOY INCREASES PRESSURE ON ISRAEL

Meanwhile, the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in northern Gaza, in particular, have added to the intense international pressure on Israel to give in and strike a deal with Hamas, enabling it to survive the war in Gaza as a reduced but still viable terrorist force, still committed to Israel’s destruction.

That pressure was intensified by the tragic death last week of more than 100 civilians in northern Gaza and the wounding of hundreds more, when a mob of starving Gazans attacked and looted an Israeli-supported convoy of trucks organized by a group of private Palestinian businessmen trying to bring in and distribute humanitarian aid in that area where Hamas had been defeated, leaving behind a breakdown in law and order.

It was the fourth overnight convoy of aid trucks that Israel had sponsored to address the critical shortage of supplies in northern Gaza. The convoy that ended in disaster left the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza before heading for areas of Gaza that had not seen aid in weeks The pre-dawn timing was meant to avoid attracting dangerous crowds, but as word spread on social media that the trucks were arriving, hundreds of Gazans emerged and descended upon the 38-truck convoy at about 4:45 a.m., as it traveled along the north-south al-Rashid Street which Israel had designated as a protected humanitarian corridor.

According to the chief spokesman for the Israeli military, Daniel Hagari, “A mob ambushed the aid trucks, bringing the convoy to a halt.

“As these vital humanitarian supplies made their way toward Gazans in need, thousands of Gazans [rushed] the trucks, some began violently pushing and trampling other Gazans to death, looting the humanitarian supplies. Dozens of Gazans were killed and injured as a result of the stampede. Unfortunately, the Palestinian trucks ran over them.” Hagari said that initially, Israeli troops fired only “a few warning shots in the air” meant as a crowd-control measure.

“The tanks that were there to secure the convoy saw the Gazans being trampled and cautiously tried to disperse the mob with a few warning shots,” Hagari said. “You can see [on the Israeli drone video the army released] how cautious [the soldiers] were when they were backing up. They were backing up securely, risking their own lives, not shooting at the mob.”

There was also a second, more deadly encounter after the convoy of aid trucks had passed an Israeli tank and a group of soldiers at a security checkpoint when they were approached by another group of Gazans in a threatening manner.

“The soldiers fired warning shots in the air and then fired toward those that posed a threat and didn’t move away,” an Israeli military official said. But Israel claims that most of the gunshot wounds to civilians treated at local Gaza hospitals must have come from Palestinian gunfire which was also reported during the incident.

ISRAELI TROOPS WERE THERE TO PROTECT THE CONVOY, NOT ATTACK IT

Hagari insisted that “we did not fire at the humanitarian convoy, we secured it. . . No IDF strike was conducted toward the aid convoy. On the contrary, the IDF was there carrying out a humanitarian aid operation, to secure the humanitarian corridor, and allow the aid convoy to reach its distribution point, so that the humanitarian aid could reach Gazan civilians in the north who are in need.”

Hagari also vigorously denied that Israel was blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. “This humanitarian aid was coordinated by Israel, for the people of Gaza. We want the aid to reach the people of Gaza. We are working around the clock to make this happen. Israel puts no limits on the amount of aid that can go into Gaza,” the IDF chief spokesman added.

The Israeli military also submitted as proof of its version of the incident, infrared surveillance video taken by drones flying overhead, showing how the truck convoy was attacked and overrun by a mob of civilians desperate to get to the aid it was carrying, as well as the separate encounter with Israeli troops.

Nevertheless, several countries in the international community have sought to hold Israel responsible for last week’s tragedy, forcing the United States to use its veto at the U.N. to kill a Security Council statement drafted by Algeria that condemned Israel for the incident.

U.S. deputy ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood explained to reporters that the U.S. cast its veto because, “we don’t have all the facts here,” and the draft statement did not have “the necessary due diligence with regards to culpability.”

An estimated 300,000 civilians who are still living in the ruins of northern Gaza are now facing the prospect of slow starvation because they failed to heed Israel’s warnings to leave the area before it launched its all-out attack on Hamas forces in the area in November.

ISRAEL IS PART OF THE SOLUTION, NOT THE PROBLEM

Israel insists that it has done everything it can in recent months to increase the flow of humanitarian goods into Gaza for the civilian population, including the re-opening of border crossing points which had been closed after the October 7 attack to permit the security inspection and entry of more trucks. Israel claims that the U.N. and other relief agencies operating inside Gaza are at fault for the breakdown in deliveries to its civilians.

According to a New York Times report, a second convoy of 16 aid trucks, sponsored by Israel and organized by a group of private Palestinian businessmen, was sent to northern Gaza over the weekend. However, only one of the 16 trucks made it to that destination. The other 15 trucks were intercepted and cleaned out along the way as they traveled through central Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp.

Even Israel’s critics concede that there has been an increased flow of humanitarian aid in recent months reaching the majority of displaced Palestinian civilians now living in southern Gaza. But because northern Gaza is now so hard for aid trucks to reach, due to all of the battle damage to local roads, as well as the lack of enough aid personnel on the ground to distribute it equitably to the local population, it has not been receiving regular aid shipments. UNWRA said that its last aid delivery to the north was on January 23, and a later convoy making a delivery attempt on February 5 turned back when it came under fire even though the delivery attempt had been coordinated with the Israeli military.

THE LIMITS OF HUMANITARIAN AIRLIFTS

As a result, first Jordan, and now the United States have started to airdrop humanitarian aid parcels from cargo planes by parachute into Gaza, in the hope that at least some of it will reach the civilians who need it so desperately. Each crate contains diapers for babies and other sanitary products, in addition to food that is fit for religious Muslims to eat.

In the first U.S. airdrop, three U.S. military C-130 cargo planes dropped 38,000 ready-to-eat meals over southwestern Gaza. The Israeli military also said that it had coordinated a total of 21 international air drops of humanitarian supplies throughout the weekend. IDF chief spokesman Daniel Hagari said that the coordinated airdrops are, “an effort that makes our fighting in Gaza possible.”

The amount of aid that can be air-dropped into northern Gaza, which does not have an operational airport, is only a tiny fraction of the amount needed by the people living there to survive in the long term. The U.S. has been exploring other means of delivering greater quantities of aid to Gaza, such as improving the ability to deliver it by sea at Gaza’s rudimentary seaport, but the necessary port improvements will take a good deal of time. Without an agreement on the kind of extended temporary cease-fire that would permit an unrestricted flow of humanitarian aid, as outlined in the Paris framework, and which Hamas’ demands have made impossible, there is no practical alternative to the continued slow starvation of the civilians remaining in northern Gaza.

In response to prior Biden administration demands, the Israeli army has withdrawn most of its troops from northern Gaza now that the Hamas battalions that were operating there have been defeated and broken up. The smaller Israeli troop formations that remain in northern Gaza are still busy with mopping up operations, tracking down the Hamas survivors who have tried to blend in with the civilian population, but who still emerge from time to time to launch sniper attacks, conduct ambushes with small squads armed with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), or set deadly booby traps against Israeli targets of opportunity.

RECALLING THE COLD WAR-ERA BERLIN AIRLIFT

The only time an airborne humanitarian supply mission was attempted on a massive scale was during the Berlin airlift, which began on June 26, 1948, after the Soviet Union initiated the first major crisis of the Cold War. The Soviets shut down all of the railway lines, canals, and highways connecting the allied-occupied areas of western Germany to the allied-occupied portion of Berlin, 100 miles inside the Soviet-occupied area of eastern Germany, in an effort to force the U.S. and its allies to abandon the city. Instead, the U.S. and the British launched the massive Berlin airlift of food, fuel, and other humanitarian supplies to sustain the 2 million residents living in the isolated U.S., British, and French-occupied portions of Berlin over the next 11 months.

At its height, the Berlin airlift required the landing of one fully loaded cargo plane every 45 seconds at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport. However, unlike Gaza today, during the airlift, Berlin was not a war zone, and once supplies were landed at the Berlin airport, the U.S. and its allies had no trouble in efficiently distributing them to the civilian residents of what then became known as West Berlin. Eventually, the Soviets were forced to lift their blockade of West Berlin by an allied counter-blockade of Soviet-occupied East Germany, and the formation by the U.S. and its Western European allies of the anti-Soviet NATO alliance.

What the Israeli military does not want to do at this point is to send more troops back into northern Gaza to carry out police functions, such as escorting aid trucks, which would just give the surviving Hamas terrorists in the area more exposed Israeli targets to attack.

IGNORING AN OBVIOUS SOLUTION FOR GAZA’S POPULATION

Similarly, neither the United Nations, the U.S. and its Western allies, nor the nations of the Arab world, have been willing to even consider the most obvious long-term solution to the problem of assuring the safety of Gaza’s civilian population of 2.2 million, especially the 300,000 now at greatest risk in northern Gaza. Why can’t the U.N. now do for the Gazans what was done for the 6.5 million refugees who fled from the Syrian civil war? Under the auspices of the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of 2022, 3.5 million Syrian refugees were living in Turkey, 815,000 were living in Lebanon, 660,000 were living in Jordan, and 520,000 were living in Germany.

The UNHCR was established in 1950 to help the millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes during World War II to either return to their former homeland, if that were possible, or, if not, resettle them successfully somewhere else. Since then, the UNHCR has helped more than 50 million refugees to successfully restart their lives, and it continues to protect and provide support for the 89.3 million people around the world, who are currently displaced.

The only refugee population that does not come under the jurisdiction of the UNHCR is the Palestinians, who, alone, are cared for by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which was founded in 1949. Unlike the UNHCR, whose mandate is to resettle refugees as quickly as possible, wherever possible, UNRWA was designed to maintain a unique hereditary refugee status for the roughly 700,000 Palestinians displaced during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and four generations of their descendants, so far. Their refugee status, alone, has been perpetuated to serve as an excuse for Arab nations to continue their war to destroy Israel.

In fact, over the years, UNRWA has actively resisted all attempts to permanently resettle Palestinian “refugees” anywhere other than inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Israel has refused to recognize this disputed Palestinian claim to a “right of return” because to do so would be suicidal. It would create an internal “Fifth Column” dedicated to the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, homeland, and safe haven for persecuted Jews around the world.

BIDEN HAS RULED OUT THE LIBERATION OF GAZA’S HUMAN SHIELDS

However, in setting out the original guidelines for U.S. support for Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza, President Biden and his administration specifically ruled out the possibility of resettling the civilian Palestinian population of Gaza somewhere else in the world, where they would no longer be forced to serve as human shields for the protection of Hamas terrorists attacking Israel.

The Hamas strategy of using the civilian population of Gaza as human shields was initiated in November 2006, by Hamas Islamic cleric Nizar Rayan, who called upon hundreds of Gaza civilians to climb onto the roof of a building that Israel had identified as a Hamas stronghold to prevent Israel from carrying out its warning that it intended to bomb the building. When Israel called off the air strike, Hamas leaders realized that they had stumbled across a winning strategy.

After Hamas took over Gaza by force in 2007 from the Palestinian Authority, its leaders incorporated the human shield strategy as a fundamental principle in their master plan to turn Gaza into a giant base for terrorist attacks on Israel by deliberately embedding as much of its military infrastructure and activities as possible within the civilian population. Hamas rocket launchers, weapons factories, armament storehouses, and command and control facilities were set up in areas protected by the international rules of warfare. These included densely populated residential areas, in tunnels underneath schools, hospitals, and mosques, and many UNRWA offices, including its central Gaza headquarters. Hamas turned them all into thinly disguised military facilities, in the accurate belief that Israel would be reluctant to attack them because of the inevitable international outcry over the unavoidable civilian casualties and collateral damage from such attacks that Hamas leaders were cynically counting upon for protection.

OCTOBER 7 CHANGED THE RULES

But Hamas’ October 7 attack, killing and torturing 1200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and taking more than 240 hostages, has changed the rules of the game. It forced Israel’s leaders to realize that their periodic efforts to “manage” the terrorist threat from Gaza since 2007 while leaving Hamas in power there had finally led to disaster. They could no longer carry out their primary duty of protecting the citizens of southern Israel from deadly terrorist attacks without destroying the Hamas facilities in civilian populated and other protected areas of Gaza, regardless of the unavoidable and unintentional collateral damage, for which Hamas, rather than Israel, should be held accountable.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and its European allies have suspended their financial contributions to UNRWA’s operating budget, after Israel submitted convincing evidence that a dozen UNRWA employees actively participated in the October 7 attack and that as many as 10% of UNRWA’s 12,000 employees in Gaza have close links to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist groups. But while UNRWA has at last been exposed to the world as a terrorist front organization, no substitute human rights group has yet come forward to take over the immediate task of helping Israel to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in northern Gaza or reforming the UNRWA schools which have been educating the children of Gaza for the past 70 years to grow up hating Israel.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has also ruled out the proposed creation by Israel of a 1-kilometer-wide security buffer zone just inside the Gaza border to protect Israeli towns and kibbutzim along the border from any future October 7-style attacks. It has also rejected Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu’s declared intention that after the fighting stops, Israeli troops continue to maintain security control inside Gaza indefinitely, in order to prevent such attacks in the future. As Netanyahu explained in a broadcast interview with ABC News, in November, a month after the October 7 attack, “We’ve seen what happens when we [Israel] don’t have” security responsibility for Gaza.

BIDEN SEEKING TO DICTATE PEACE TERMS TO ISRAEL

Secretary of State Blinken responded to that declaration, after meeting with the foreign ministers of U.S. allies in Tokyo, by publicly declaring that, “The United States believes key elements [for a Gaza peace agreement] should include no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza; not now; not after the war. No use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks. No reoccupation of Gaza [by Israel] after the conflict ends. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in the territory of Gaza.”

Taken together, these Biden administration policies would perpetuate the possibility of future attacks on Israel from Gaza, because it would continue to serve as an incubator for terrorism and hatred for Israel within its captive Palestinian population. Biden’s policies have also encouraged the Hamas leadership to hold firm to their demands for a premature end to the war in Gaza and a total withdrawal of Israeli troops. That would enable Hamas to survive and eventually reconstitute itself in Gaza militarily, and repeat its October 7 attack on Israel, which its leaders have publicly pledged to do.

HAMAS IS ON THE ROPES

Meanwhile, the Israeli military has made impressive progress during the five months since the war in Gaza started. It has wiped out an estimated 75% of Hamas’ organized terrorist battalions, killing an estimated 13,000 fighters and wounding a similar number, in addition to 1,000 terrorists who were killed inside Israel in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 attack. The remaining 25% of organized Hamas military formations are now under concerted attack by Israeli forces which have invaded the southern Gaza City of Khan Younis and are now preparing to attack the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza, located in the city of Rafah along the Egyptian border.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s senior military commanders believe that the only way to force Hamas to give up the remaining hostages in its custody and agree to a temporary cease-fire that would permit the delivery and distribution of an adequate amount of humanitarian aid is by keeping up the relentless military pressure, and by the recent announcement of an informal deadline of around March 10, the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, for the launching of the final Israeli ground assault on the last remaining Hamas strongholds and targets in the city of Rafah.

UNDERMINING ISRAEL’S DETERRENCE CAPABILITY

Unfortunately, recent public statements and media-published leaks by Biden and administration officials openly criticizing Netanyahu and his announced plans for ending the war in Gaza have undermined the effectiveness of Israel’s strategy, and given new hope to Hamas leaders that they and their terrorist organization can survive the war if they can only hold out long enough.

This has led to a change in Hamas tactics on the Gaza battlefield. After suffering huge casualties during conventional ground battles with Israeli troops during the first two months of the war, after the end of the temporary cease-fire in November, Hamas switched to guerilla tactics. It has since limited its attacks mostly to small units and individual engagements, forcing Israeli troops to seek out the bulk of remaining Hamas forces hiding from them in the huge network of interconnected underground tunnels and fortifications throughout Gaza.

As Con Coughlin, the London Telegraph’s defense and foreign affairs editor recently pointed out, “Biden’s suggestion [last week] that a deal could be in place by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. . . simply signaled to Hamas that the U.S. president, for his own political reasons, was more desperate for a cease-fire than the Islamist terrorists.

WHY HAMAS NOW BELIEVES IT CAN DICTATE PEACE TERMS

“The result is that Hamas now finds itself in a bizarre situation in which it feels it can blackmail the U.S. as well as Israel into acceding to its outrageous demands.

“Hamas’ belief that it can dictate its own cease-fire terms,” Coughlin observed, “derives from its view that Biden is negotiating from a position of weakness, not strength. This is because, thanks to mounting criticism of the White House’s handling of the Gaza crisis by the far-left and the Arab-American community, Biden is increasingly concerned that it could have a negative impact on his prospects of winning re-election in November’s presidential [election].

“This was clearly the case in [last] week’s Democratic primary poll in Michigan, where, despite winning a comfortable majority, Biden still encountered [opposition from more than 100,000] voters over [his] continued support for Israel in the Gaza conflict,” Coughlin concluded.

While the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government have managed to bridge their differences so far over acceptable terms for an initial truce and partial hostage-prisoner exchange with Hamas, Netanyahu remains vehemently opposed to the Biden administration’s intense push to resurrect the failed two-state solution as its vision and goal for the outcome of the Gaza war. His refusal is fully in line with Israeli public opinion polls which show that a huge majority of Israeli Jews are unwilling to reward the Palestinians for their support for Hamas’ October 7 attack by giving them a state of their own.

INVENTING THE “BIDEN MIDDLE EAST DOCTRINE”

Nevertheless, during a mid-December visit to the region, while the war was still raging in Gaza, President Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, publicly pressed Israel for the post-Gaza war creation of a Palestinian Authority-led Palestinian state, without first revealing the provisions for a “revamped and revitalized Palestinian Authority, which the Biden administration had previously promised as a pre-requisite for what Sullivan called, ‘President Biden’s longstanding vision for a more peaceful, integrated, and prosperous Middle East region, and ultimately a path to a two-state solution that provides for equal measures of justice, freedom, and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.’”

Sullivan’s statement was followed up by an announcement in January by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that the latest attempt to revive the failed two-state solution had suddenly become “the Biden doctrine” for pursuing peace in the Middle East, which would also include, according to Friedman, the long-sought goal of tighter security cooperation between the U.S. Israel and Saudi Arabia, and “an unprecedented U.S. diplomatic initiative to promote a Palestinian state – NOW.”

Friedman further explained that the Biden doctrine’s implementation “would involve some form of U.S. recognition of a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that would come into being only once Palestinians had developed a set of defined, credible institutions and security capabilities to ensure that this state was viable and that it could never threaten Israel.” But Friedman does not explain how the Biden administration would go about persuading and enabling the notoriously corrupt Palestinian Authority to meet those demanding conditions.

The next stage in the Biden administration’s Middle East peace media campaign came from former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who played a leading role in the unsuccessful efforts of Presidents Clinton and Obama to create a Palestinian state, echoed in the form of a lengthy essay published a few weeks ago on the website of Foreign Affairs magazine, entitled hopefully, The Strange Resurrection of the Two-State Solution.” In it, Indyk echoed the arguments that had been made by Sullivan and Friedman while ignoring the real progress towards a regional-wide peace agreement made by the Trump-brokered Abraham Accords, by claiming that, “there is no credible way to bring the war in Gaza to an end. . . without also establishing a credible path to a two-state solution.” Indyk also wrote that the Biden administration must be able to include the goal of [a] two-state [solution as part of the Israeli-Saudi agreement it is still eager to broker. But like Sullivan and Friedman, Indyk did not explain how that would be possible, given the heightened antipathy and deep mistrust between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples in the West Bank as well as Gaza, in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 attack and the subsequent Israeli war to destroy Hamas.

Some political analysts view the effort as a desperate attempt to portray Biden as a Middle East peacemaker to win back the votes of the radical left, antisemitic, Muslim, and pro-Palestinian segments of the Democrat party who have threatened to stay home on Election Day or vote for a third-party candidate in protest against Biden’s continued support for Israel in the Gaza war, at least so far.

DEBUNKING THE “TWO-STATE DELUSION”

The most detailed response to the Biden media initiative was published in the Tablet last month by Elliott Abrams who advised President George W. Bush on national security policy for the Middle East, In his essay entitled “The Two-State Delusion,” Abrams argued that Sullivan, Friedman, and Indyk have offered little reason to believe that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are any closer today than they were almost 25 years ago, at the failed 2000 Camp David summit, to resolving the final status questions which have always stood in the way of a two-state solution, including the drawing of new borders, resolving the emotional dispute over the sovereignty of Yerushalayim, and putting an end, at last, the sad plight of the so-called Palestinian refugees. In addition, Abrams warned, that any Palestinian state that would be created by “the Biden doctrine” under current circumstances, would be unlikely to respect individual freedom, democracy, or the rule of law, and would likely provide Iran, sooner or later, with yet another proxy tool located on Israel’s borders bent upon its destruction as a Jewish state.

Meanwhile, late last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu finally issued his most detailed response yet to the Biden administration’s media campaign to sell a post-Gaza war two-state solution that large majorities of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples now neither want nor believe could work.

In the one-page document, Netanyahu outlines a series of short-term intermediate-term, and long-term principles to guide Israeli policy as the war in Gaza plays out.

NETANYAHU’S REALISTIC PRINCIPLES FOR DEALING WITH THE GAZA PROBLEM

In the short run, Netanyahu insists that Israel must complete the job of destroying Hamas’ remaining ability to govern Gaza and wage war against Israel, while doing everything still possible to return all of the hostages still in Hamas’ hands, living or dead.

In the intermediate term, following the end of the fighting in Gaza, Netanyahu argues, based on Israel’s bitter recent experience with Hamas, that it cannot again take the risk of subcontracting future responsibility for its security from attack from Gaza to any third party, be it a “reformed” Palestinian Authority, or a U.N. or multinational Arab force. Instead, Israel must insist on a fully demilitarized Gaza, with the IDF free to operate as necessary throughout the territory. It must finish the establishment of a closely monitored security zone inside Gaza along the Israeli border. Israel needs to reach an agreement with the Egyptian government to prevent the continued smuggling of weapons through the Hamas-controlled tunnels underneath Gaza’s border with Egypt, known as the Philadelphi corridor.

Israel also must continue to exercise its security control over the entire West Bank and to the extent possible transfer administrative power from the corrupt current leadership of the Palestinian Authority to local Palestinians who have not been involved in terrorism. Israel must also find, with the help of its friends, a long-term replacement for the social welfare and educational functions that have been carried out by UNRWA that were tainted by its support for Palestinian terrorism. Once Gaza has been thoroughly demilitarized and deradicalized, in the intermediate time frame, Israel can then turn to its international friends for help in rebuilding Gaza with financial and administrative aid, and with the confidence that there will not be a need for Israel to destroy it once again.

Finally, Netanyahu concludes, “Israel will continue to oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition following the Oct. 7 slaughter would grant a great prize without precedent to terror and would thwart any future peace arrangements.” A final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will only be possible in the long run, after the two peoples have lived in peace alongside one another long enough to begin daring to trust each other, and such an agreement, Netanyahu reminds us, “will only be achieved through direct negotiations between the sides without preexisting conditions.”

As vague as Netanyahu’s principles may be, at least they are based upon a realistic view of the security situation in the region today, and what agreements might ultimately be possible if Israel is allowed to finish the job of destroying Hamas and liberating the 2.2 million Palestinian residents of Gaza from their involuntary role since 1948 as human shields and cannon fodder.

 

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