Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Israel this week for the second time since the October 7 attack. He met with Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss Israel’s immediate military needs and future plans for the war in Gaza. He also reiterated the Biden administration’s concerns about the need to reduce civilian casualties as the war in Gaza moves to the next stage, and pushed for a revival, after the war is over, of peace negotiations with a revamped Palestinian Authority leading to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At a press conference after meeting with the Israeli leaders, Austin said, “America’s commitment to Israel is unwavering, and no individual group or state should test our resolve.”
In comments directed to Netanyahu, Austin promised that the U.S. would continue to provide Israel “with the equipment that you need to defend your country” and destroy Hamas. He also said, “This is Israel’s operation, and I’m not here to dictate timelines or terms. Our support [for] Israel’s right to defend itself is ironclad, as you’ve heard me say a number of times, and that’s not going to change.”
However, Austin demanded that “more humanitarian assistance” must be allowed to enter Gaza, “and we must distribute that aid better.” But he also thanked Netanyahu for the “recent initiative” referring to Israel’s reopening last week of the Kerem Shalom crossing for aid deliveries, “and hopefully that will enable us to move even more [aid] in.”
Austin also urged Israeli leaders to plan for “transitioning to the next [lower intensity] phase of operations” in Gaza as soon as possible.
NETANYAHU DOUBLES DOWN ON “TOTAL VICTORY” OVER HAMAS
Netanyahu responded by reiterating his pledge to lead Israel to “total victory against Hamas” and describing the war in Gaza as “a battle against the Iranian axis of terror, which is now threatening to close the [Red Sea] maritime strait of Bab el-Mandeb” through Houthi attacks. “This threatens the freedom of navigation of the entire world.”
Austin addressed this point by noting that the U.S. is “leading a multinational maritime task force to uphold the bedrock principle of freedom of navigation. Iran’s support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop.”
At a later press conference with Defense Minister Gallant, Austin said that the Houthi attacks are “reckless, dangerous, and they violate international law.”
Concerning the Biden administration’s criticism of Israel for the large number of civilian casualties from the attacks it carried out during the first weeks of the war in Gaza, Austin noted that the techniques being used by the Israeli army “are changing, taking lessons learned in the north [which] they’ve applied. . . in the south, and I’m sure that’ll continue.”
Austin also acknowledged that Gaza’s dense population, and the fact that Hamas routinely uses civilians as shields, and fights from “near hospitals, mosques, churches, you name it. . . makes it very, very difficult [for Israel] to conduct any military operation [there].”
AN ISRAELI VICTORY IS A VICTORY FOR THE FREE WORLD
Gallant declared that “our common enemies around the world are watching and they know that [an] Israeli victory is a victory of the free world led by the United States.”
He then turned to Austin and said, “We both know the complexities of war. We both fought brutal terror organizations, we know that it takes time. . .
“We are also working with international partners to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, but anytime we discuss humanitarian issues, we must remember 129 hostages are [still] held [by Hamas] in Gaza.”
Gallant insisted that there is “no clock that is running” on the IDF’s military operations in Gaza and that it will take as much time as necessary for the achievements “we need to get. . . on the ground before we move to the next phase.”
He said that the IDF “will continue to operate on different levels of intensity according to the situation,” and that soon it “will be able to distinguish between different areas in Gaza.” Once it has confirmed that a certain area is cleared of Hamas, the IDF will “transition gradually to the next phase and start working on bringing back the local population.”
Austin then reiterated the Biden administration’s position that “it would compound this tragedy” if the end of the war were met with only “insecurity, fear and despair. . . Israelis and Palestinians have both paid too big a price to just go back to October 6.”
“Israelis and Palestinians both deserve a horizon of hope,” Austin said, and that it is “in the interest of both Israelis and Palestinians to move forward towards two states, living side by side and in mutual security.” But Austin also recognized “how hard that is” for Israelis to accept, “especially after October 7. But ongoing instability and insecurity only play into the hands of Hamas.”
ECHOING JAKE SULLIVAN’S MESSAGE
These were essentially the same messages that visiting U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan delivered last week when he and his team held “intense, detailed conversations” with Netanyahu, Gallant, and the Israeli war cabinet.
Sullivan said that he had engaged in “constructive,” “intense,” and “detailed conversations” with Israeli officials about “how to shift from a high intensity to a different phase of the war [that would] look different and operate differently on the ground and have different impacts on the civilian population of Gaza.”
Sullivan also claimed that there was “a wide degree of convergence in the talks,” and that the conversations had “landed in a good place.”
“Israel is going to continue to conduct its efforts to get after Hamas for some time. It is going to continue to hunt the top leaders, we don’t know how long it will take. The issue is, when will Israel shift… to an operation that is more precise, targeted, and more driven to target high-value individuals,” Sullivan said.
“The fight against Hamas will go on for months, and against any terror group that is the author of the biggest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust,” Sullivan added. “It takes time until the leaders are found and dealt with,” which will, he says, determine “when the transition from the high-intensity operation” will take place to lessen the danger to the civilian population in Gaza.
The U.S., he said, is “not here to lecture or dictate [a timeline to Israel]. Israel is friend and partner, we talk as friends, and we work through the strategic and tactical advantages and offer input.”
Sullivan said that in his talks with Israeli leaders, they discussed the process which “will lead to the end of Hamas as a terror threat to Israel,” and “how to ensure that the civilian population of Gaza is protected and supported,” as well as dealing with the threats Israel is facing from Hezbollah and other Iran proxies in the region.
In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that Sullivan “did talk about the possible transitioning from what we would call high-intensity operations — which is what we’re seeing them do now — to lower-intensity operations sometime in the near future. But I don’t want to put a time stamp on that. The last thing we want to do is telegraph to Hamas what they’re likely to face in the coming weeks and months.”
Kirby said that Sullivan and Netanyahu “also discussed efforts Israel’s now undertaking to be more surgical and precise in their targeting and efforts that they are taking to help increase the flow of aid.”
Also putting a positive spin on the U.S.-Israeli dialogue, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, “We engage in conversations with our Israeli counterparts about things that we think they can do better.” He then added, “We’ve seen them make progress in a number of areas.”
THE NEXT STAGE OF THE WAR IN GAZA
According to Kirby, the U.S. envisions “the next stage of Israel’s military campaign” as a mopping-up operation, characterized by months of smaller-scale Israeli commando-type raids and pinpoint targeted airstrikes that minimize the risk of civilian casualties. The IDF would focus on high-value targets, intelligence-driven raids, and narrow military objectives, such as eliminating the last Hamas strong points in Gaza, raiding the hideouts of its surviving leaders, the demolition of the extensive tunnel network under Gaza, and the rescue or recovery of the remaining hostages.
After meeting with Sullivan, Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked the U.S. for continuing to supply Israel with arms, and ammunition, including roughly 15,000 bombs and 57,000 artillery shells since October 7; for support in the United Nations and for assisting in the return of the hostages taken by Hamas. Netanyahu added that efforts to release remaining hostages are ongoing, “even at this moment,” and that, “We are more determined than ever to continue fighting until Hamas is eliminated — until absolute victory.”
In his public remarks before meeting with Sullivan, Defense Minister Gallant said that the war against Hamas in Gaza will take “more than several months.”
Gallant explained that “It will require a long period of time [because] Hamas is a terrorist organization that built itself over a decade to fight Israel, and they built infrastructure under the ground and above the ground, and it is not easy to destroy them.”
However, according to reports by the Times of Israel, the Walla news service, and the New York Times, Sullivan made it clear in his discussions that the U.S. expects Israel to start a “major rollback” in the intensity of its military operations in Gaza as quickly as possible, and, according to some accounts, as soon as the end of this month.
NETANYAHU REJECTS BIDEN’S GAZA WAR END GAME
In response to those reports, Netanyahu’s office said that the prime minister had “made it clear [to Sullivan] that Israel will continue the war until we complete all of its goals,” which is to destroy Hamas’ ability to wage military operations or govern Gaza, rather than adhering to any artificial deadlines to reduce the level of Israel’s military operations set by the Biden administration.
But in a joint press conference on Motzoei Shabbos with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, Netanyahu was much more forceful in pushing back against the American proposals to shorten the duration of the war, permit the Palestinian Authority to regain control over Gaza and revive negotiations for a two-state solution.
“We are fighting for our existence. We must continue the war until we are victorious, despite international pressures and despite the unbearably heavy price that the war exacts from us in the loss of our cherished sons and daughters,” Netanyahu said.
He declared that total victory is the only way to ensure that Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza have not fallen in vain.
“We are more determined than ever to continue until the end — until we eliminate Hamas, until we return all our captives, and until we ensure that in Gaza there is no longer any [Palestinian] faction that educates about terrorism, finances terrorism, and executes terrorism.”
Netanyahu also said that “without the military pressure, we would not have been able to produce the agreement which resulted in the release of 110 captives. Only the continuation of the military pressure will lead to the release of all our captives.
“The instructions I give to the [hostage] negotiating team are based on this military pressure — and without it we have nothing,” the prime minister stated.
NETANYAHU EQUATES THE PA WITH HAMAS
He also challenged those who suggest that there is a major difference between the PA and Hamas.
“I will not let Israel go back to the fateful mistake of Oslo. . . I will not allow us to replace Hamastan with Fatahstan, or to replace Khan Yunis with Jenin. The debate between Hamas and Fatah is not about whether to eliminate Israel, but only about how to do so,” Netanyahu declared.
After noting that the Palestinian Authority has “simply refused to condemn the [October 7] massacre, and some of them even glorify it with relish,” he asked how the PA could be trusted to rule Gaza again after the war: “Have we learned nothing? As prime minister of Israel, I will not let this happen.”
Netanyahu also made it crystal clear that he rejects the Biden administration’s efforts to revive peace negotiations in search of a two-state solution when he declared, “I am proud that I prevent the creation of a Palestinian state because today [after October 7] everyone understands what that Palestine state could have been, now that we’ve seen the little Palestinian state in Gaza. Everyone understands what would have happened if we had capitulated to international pressures and enabled a state like that in Judea and Samaria, surrounding Yerushalayim and on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.”
NETANYAHU’S CRITICS ACCUSE HIM OF LYING AND HYPOCRISY
Netanyahu’s Israeli critics were quick to point out the fact that during his first stint as prime minister in the late 1990s he had implemented the interim agreements of the Oslo peace process that he now calls a “fatal mistake.”
Netanyahu responded that he had “inherited the Oslo Accords” from previous prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, and that “the decision to bring the PLO from Tunis and plant it in the heart of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], and in Gaza, was a decision made and implemented before I became prime minister” and one he had always thought was a mistake.
Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk accused Netanyahu of “lying” to world leaders in 2009 when he declared in a widely publicized speech at Bar Ilan University that he supported a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“So all those promises to world leaders about his commitment to a two-state solution were a bunch of lies. And all those enablers who swore Bibi was serious about peace have some explaining to do,” Indyk said.
Netanyahu’s critics also noted that as a member of Ariel Sharon’s government, he had voted in favor of the 2005 disengagement from Gaza which led to its takeover by Hamas two years later; that he approved as prime minister the 2011 deal to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit which enabled Hamas’s current leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, among 1,026 other security prisoners, to be released from an Israeli prison, and that he allowed huge amounts of Qatari cash to flow to Hamas-ruled Gaza, some of which Hamas used to prepare for the October 7 attack.
These criticisms are just a preview of the coming political debate in Israel, starting on “the day after” the end of the Gaza war, over whether Netanyahu is fit to continue as prime minister.
REVIVING HOSTAGE RELEASE NEGOTIATIONS
Sullivan said that the U.S. and Israel are looking to “explore what is possible on another phase of hostage releases.” The U.S., he said, is “determined to stop at nothing to ensure every last one of them gets home to their families.”
Meanwhile, Mossad chief David Barnea met with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and CIA Director William Burns this week in Warsaw to discuss terms for a new hostage release agreement with Hamas, to replace the original hostage release deal that collapsed at the end of November. Qatar, which has long been generous in providing money to support the civilians in Gaza, mediated that first hostage release agreement together with Egypt, and is now working on trying to negotiate a second one.
Hamas has told Egyptian negotiators that it will only agree to release more hostages in return for a permanent Israeli cease-fire, including the withdrawal of Israeli forces in Gaza behind predetermined lines. Hamas is also demanding the release of longtime Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons, including popular Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, and a doubling of the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza. In response, Daniel Hagari, the chief IDF military spokesman, said that Hamas’ demands for a full cease-fire would not change the Israeli military’s original war aim of the complete destruction of Hamas.
SENDING THE REMNANTS OF HAMAS INTO EXILE
Separately, the Jerusalem Post reports that a group called Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), consisting of over 500 senior former Israeli defense and intelligence officials, has submitted an outline to the Israeli war cabinet for a plan to end the war in Gaza. It would offer the surviving leaders of Hamas, as well as all of the Palestinian security prisoners being held in Israeli jails, free passage for exile in an unspecified foreign country in exchange for the return of all of the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas on October 7.
Many of the key details of the plan still have to be worked out, such as the number of Hamas and other Gaza terrorist and Israeli security prisoners to be released, and the name of the country that would give them asylum, But the plan does have the advantage of having been tried successfully before.
At the end of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and its conquest of Beirut, in response to a terrorist attack on a senior Israeli diplomat, PLO leader Yasser Arafat and 8,000 PLO terrorists who had been living in Lebanon were forced into exile in Tunisia, where they remained until 1991 when they returned with the onset of the Oslo peace process.
According to the chairman of the CIS group, former IDF deputy chief of staff Matan Vilnai, the balance of their written proposal closely parallels the Biden administration’s ideas for the postwar management and supervision of Gaza.
The CIS plan says that “Israel should declare that upon acceptance of these terms and receipt of a complete list of hostages: The gates of Gaza will be open to unlimited humanitarian assistance, while weapon smuggling will be strictly prevented,” and that “during the Interim Period that follows intensive fighting, the IDF will deploy in a manner that enables Gaza reconstruction.”
The proposal also states that “Israel will cooperate with and assist an international, Arab-regional, and Palestinian effort to establish a mechanism that will assume responsibility for the management, demilitarization, and rehabilitation of the Strip, all under U.S. leadership.”
The CIS proposal is also consistent with the Biden administration’s naive and obsolete Oslo-inspired vision, as presented by Sullivan, for the day after the war ends. Sullivan said that “governance of West Bank and Gaza needs to be connected under a revamped and revitalized Palestinian Authority.” He added that this “requires extensive conversations” with Palestinians and Israelis as well as “reform,” and the participation of other countries “to contribute resources and other forms of support.”
“At the end of the day,” Sullivan concluded, we’ll need to see the “West Bank and Gaza connected under a common leadership that does not pose a terror threat” to Israel.
WHO WILL PATROL GAZA WHEN THE WAR IS OVER?
Sullivan also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss a plan to form a multinational security force to patrol Gaza after the war ends. Reportedly, the nucleus of that force would be 1,000 former Palestinian Authority security forces officers in Gaza, and another 3,000 to 5,000 in the West Bank, and the rest of the forces would be contributed from neighboring Arab states friendly to Israel.
However, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, told CIA Director William Burns when he visited Cairo last month that he would not contribute Egyptian forces to the proposed multinational security force for Gaza because he is already being criticized for the tight controls on humanitarian aid at Egypt’s Rafah border crossing into Gaza. Al-Sisi also does not want to be criticized in the Arab world for publicly working with Israel after its conquest of Gaza.
Abbas had also previously told senior White House official, Phil Gordon, that he would not discuss the proposed post-war Gaza security force or reforms to revitalize the notoriously corrupt PA until the U.S. pressures Israel into agreeing to a cease-fire in Gaza before Hamas has been destroyed.
“Our priority is the cease-fire,” Abbas told Gordon. “When we have a cease-fire, we can sit down at the table and discuss it. All options are open.”
WHO WILL REPLACE ABBAS?
In the meantime, there has been a lot of media speculation over who would be the most suitable replacement for the widely discredited Abbas, who is 88 years old and in poor health, as the leader of a newly reformed and reconstituted PA. The most frequently mentioned names include Salam Fayyad, who won praise for his efforts to combat corruption while he was the PA prime minister from 2007 to 2013; Mohammed Dahlan, a former PA security chief in Gaza; Marwan Barghouti, a popular Fatah leader who is currently serving five life sentences for the murder of Israelis during the Second Intifada, and Hussein al-Sheikh, the general secretary of the PLO.
However, for the time being, Abbas remains the unchallenged leader of the Palestinian Authority, despite being very unpopular among the Palestinians he rules in the West Bank and is distrusted by Israel.
In an interview with Reuters, Abbas said he was ready to revamp the leadership of the Palestinian Authority by holding general elections for the first time since Hamas won the last vote in 2006, but only if there was a binding international agreement leading to the creation of a Palestinian state, which the Prime Minister and his right-wing coalition partners insist that they will never accept.
“The problem is not changing [Palestinian] politicians and forming a new government, the problem is the policies of the Israeli government,” Abbas told Reuters.
He also called upon the United States to sponsor an international peace conference modeled after the 1991 Madrid summit organized by President George H.W. Bush following the 1990-91 Gulf War, to set the terms for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Sullivan and President Biden have also been pushing Netanyahu to agree to restart negotiations with the PA, after the Gaza war is over, on reaching a two-state solution leading to the creation of a Palestinian state.
However, while Netanyahu has said that Israel is not interested in re-occupying Gaza, and would prefer that the international community take responsibility for Gaza after Hamas is defeated, he also made it clear that Israel will insist on measures, such as the creation of buffer zones to maintain overall security in Gaza. In a video statement, Netanyahu said, “I greatly appreciate the American support for destroying Hamas and returning our hostages. Following an intensive dialogue with President Biden and his team, we received full backing for the ground incursion and blocking the international pressure to stop the war.
U.S.-ISRAELI DIFFERENCES OUT IN THE OPEN
“Yes, there is disagreement about ‘the day after Hamas,’” Netanyahu conceded, “and I hope that we will reach an agreement here as well.” He declared that after the war is over, “Gaza will be neither Hamastan nor Fatahstan,” and that Israel would not repeat the “mistake” of agreeing to the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995, which created the Palestinian Authority and put it in control of Arab-populated areas in Gaza and the West Bank.
Netanyahu has ample reason to be skeptical about re-empowering the PA in Gaza after the war, if only because it has refused to condemn Hamas for its October 7 attack. In addition, Mohammad Shtayyeh, the prime minister of the PA, has recently said that “Hamas is an integral part of the Palestinian mosaic.”
Israel is also strongly opposed to the Egyptian proposal that when the Gaza war is over, the remnants of Hamas be included in the overhauled Palestinian Authority and even be allowed to participate in the post-war security force in Gaza.
Pacifying Gaza after the war is over will not be an easy task because, according to a new poll taken by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 82% of West Bank Palestinians, who live under PA rule, say they believe that Hamas was right to launch its October 7 attack.
Despite U.S. pressure on Israel to bring the current intensive phase of the war to a more rapid close, and their disagreement over post-war security arrangements and peace negotiations with the PA, President Biden is still publicly committed to Israel’s primary war goal: the complete destruction of Hamas. Last week he said, “Nobody on G-d’s green Earth can justify what Hamas did. They’re a brutal, ugly, inhumane people, and they have to be eliminated.”
U.S. VETOES U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL CEASE-FIRE RESOLUTION
To his credit, Biden backed that declaration with action by ordering the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to veto a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, which Netanyahu has pledged that Israel will not agree to, because it would leave Hamas undefeated and still capable of fulfilling its threats to repeat its heinous October 7 attack.
However, Biden is under strong political pressure from the pro-Palestinian progressive wing of the Democrat party, including hundreds of members of his own administration, to force a premature cease-fire upon Israel. Some political analysts have said that the left-wing backlash against Biden for continuing his backing of Israel’s war on Hamas could threaten his re-election chances next November. To lessen that pressure, Israel has acceded to Biden’s requests to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza, even though Hamas has been stealing much of it, as well as ordering pauses in the fighting for the exchange of hostages and designating “safe” areas for civilians in southern Gaza.
BIDEN’S SUCCESSFUL DUAL STRATEGY FOR INFLUENCING ISRAEL
The Biden administration has adopted a dual strategy in dealing with the Israeli government. Publicly, it has strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the October 7 attack, while privately it has been highly critical of the specific Israeli military tactics which have led to so many Palestinian civilian casualties. While Netanyahu and other Israeli officials remain committed to the goal of destroying Hamas, no matter how long that might take, they have responded to the pressure that the Biden administration has applied privately to institute measures designed to limit the number of civilian casualties and to provide those civilians with the basic necessities of life as the fighting around them continues.
According to veteran Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross, the tactic of being careful to avoid dictating anything to the Israelis has made the U.S. effort to influence their war policies far more effective than public criticism would be.
In an interview, Ross told the New York Times, “The ability to move the Israelis or influence the Israelis requires this initial sense of trying to relate to them. We’re saying, ‘Be mindful, that how you conduct this campaign has implications for those who matter to you in the region.’ It never hurts to be reminded of that.”
Because of the behind-the-scenes pressure from the Biden administration, Israel lifted its initial blockade cutting off the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and last week, re-opened the border crossing at Kerem Shalom to increase the volume of such shipments which had been closed since October 7. Israel also agreed to U.S. demands to restore the cell phone and internet service in Gaza which it cut off when launching its major ground offensives in Gaza. Due to the American pressure, Israel has also scaled back on its use in southern Gaza of the overwhelming firepower and blockbuster bombs that it used in northern Gaza, even though it is likely responsible for the sharp increase in the number of Israeli troops being killed in combat in recent weeks.
ISRAEL NEVER GETS THE CREDIT IT DESERVES
But as a Wall Street Journal editorial points out, “Israel gets little credit for its sacrifices,” even though the actions it took to satisfy Biden’s demands in Gaza make the defeat of Hamas more difficult and more costly in terms of the lost lives of Israeli soldiers.
Meanwhile, speaking at a presidential campaign fundraiser in Washington last week, hosted by Lee Rosenberg, a former chairman of the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby, Biden criticized Netanyahu’s pre-war right-wing coalition as “the most conservative government in Israel’s history. . . [which doesn’t] want anything remotely approaching a two-state solution,” and declared that it needed “to change. . .”
Biden reiterated his position that “There’s no question about the need [for Israel] to take on Hamas. None. Zero. They have every right,” because Hamas poses “an existential threat.” He also declared that “we’re going to. . . protect Israel… [and ensure they have] what they need to defend themselves and to finish the job against Hamas.
BIDEN’S DEMANDS ON NETANYAHU
“But,” Biden added, “Israel has a tough decision to make. Bibi has got a tough decision to make. . . We have to make sure that Bibi understands that he’s got to make some moves to strengthen the [PA]. You cannot say there’s no Palestinian state at all in the future. . . We have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of… a two-state solution.”
Biden also cautioned Israel, “Don’t make the same mistakes we [the U.S.] made [after] 9/11. There was no reason why we had to be in a war in Afghanistan [after] 9/11. There was no reason why we had to do some of the things we did. . .
“One of the things that Bibi understands — but I’m not sure [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben Gvir and his war cabinet do,” Biden said, “is that Israel’s security can rest on the United States. But right now, it has more than the United States. It has the European Union, it has most of the world supporting it. But they’re starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”
Biden’s “indiscriminate bombing” charge was so demonstrably unfair that the White House quickly moved to walk it back, but Israel did not protest because it cannot afford to alienate Biden and risk losing American diplomatic support and military aid for its war against Hamas.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu has shown no signs of backing down in the face of Biden’s criticism. In a speech to Israeli soldiers guarding a terrorist detention facility in southern Israel, Netanyahu declared, “Nothing will stop us. We are continuing until the end, until victory, until the elimination of Hamas. I say this even in the face of great pain [due to the tragic death last week of three hostages in Gaza due to friendly fire], but also in the face of international pressure.”
Similarly, in a Kan News radio interview, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said that the war against Hamas would continue “with or without international support.” As Cohen explained to a visiting diplomat, “A cease-fire at the current stage is a gift to the terrorist organization Hamas, and will allow it to return and threaten the residents of Israel.”
ISRAEL HAS NO GOOD CHOICES BUT AMERICA DOES
As the Wall Street Journal editorial points out, “Israel has no good choices here, but America does. The President can focus on supporting a U.S. ally in vanquishing a genocidal enemy.”
An editorial in the conservative Washington Examiner newspaper makes a similar point. It notes that “Biden has allowed himself to be dragged into equivocation by the pro-Hamas/Palestinian Left.” His comments have legitimized the false claim that Israel does not care about the civilian casualties in Gaza when the fact is that, “if Israel simply wanted to destroy Hamas at minimal cost to its own forces, it could level Gaza by employing airstrikes without regard for the safety of noncombatants.
“Instead, the IDF soldiers are being killed and wounded to reduce Palestinian civilian casualties. The IDF warns Palestinian civilians which buildings and areas are about to be targeted and tells them where they can move to stay safe. As White House national security spokesman John Kirby noted, ‘That’s basically telegraphing your punches. There are very few modern militaries in the world that would do that. I don’t know that we would do that.’
“When Biden undermines Israel with his rhetoric, he does more than insult a key ally. He makes himself a useful idiot for Hamas’ global propaganda campaign. This centers on boosting the false narrative of Israeli genocide and the collective punishment of Palestinians. . .
“It would be a grievous turn of events,” the Examiner’s editorial continues, “were Israel forced into a cease-fire now. Its legitimate objective is to end Hamas’s political and military capabilities completely. It is on its way toward achieving that objective, which is why the Left’s screams for a cease-fire are getting louder.
“Hamas fighters are surrendering in large numbers. Its leaders are pushing daily for a cease-fire with increasingly conciliatory rhetoric. Its strongholds in Gaza are falling to IDF forces. Its tunnels are being exploded and flooded, killing concealed fighters or forcing them into the open to be taken prisoner. The noose is tightening. But the job is not yet done. . .
“Helping Israel get the job done must be Biden’s top priority.”