Will Biden stand by Israel?

President Biden took a solidarity trip to a wartime Israel after the gruesome Hamas terrorist attacks that killed 1,400 Israelis and captured hundreds more. “We’re going to stand with you,” he declared in Tel Aviv in an emotional and at times moving speech after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We’ll walk beside you in those dark days, and we’ll walk beside you in the good days to come.”

The weeks and months ahead will put his vow to the test.

After the terrorist attacks of October 7, many in the pro-Israel community braced themselves for the prospect of Biden trying to draw false equivalence between Hamas’s barbaric crimes and Israel’s actions to defend itself. Nonetheless, in the intervening period, Biden has spoken unequivocally about the especially evil nature of Hamas’s attacks on civilians, which have already claimed the lives not only of Israeli civilians and children, but also of 31 Americans (as many as 13 Americans are believed to be hostages). And the president has pledged ongoing support for Israel’s efforts to defend itself.

Biden’s trip to Israel came in the wake of an egregious case of media malfeasance that added more fuel to an already raging conflict. On Tuesday, Hamas claimed that an Israeli air strike on Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza had killed 500 people. Despite many reasons for skepticism, including the fact that the terrorist group often blames Israel for acts of Palestinians, leading global news organizations — from the New York Times to the BBC — uncritically ran with the Hamas claim. In the firestorm that followed, a summit that was to include Biden and the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority was canceled, and mobs descended on Israeli and U.S. embassies. By the time Biden had landed in Israel, Israel had provided video evidence and audio intelligence intercepts pointing to a misfire of a rocket aimed at Israel from Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As daylight came, footage of the scene of the blast showed the hospital building was intact, with the blast having occurred in the parking lot — all of which not only pointed to a Palestinian rocket, rather than an air strike from an Israeli missile, but also to a death toll far smaller than the 500 that was claimed by Hamas nearly instantly. Biden endorsed Israel’s version of events and confirmed that the Pentagon independently determined that Israel’s account was accurate.

The speech Biden gave provided both reason for hope and cause for concern.

On the encouraging side, Biden pulled no punches in acknowledging the nature of the attack and the pain it caused Israelis. He noted that adjusted for population, it was 15 times as deadly as September 11. “Children slaughtered,” Biden recounted. “Babies slaughtered. Entire families massacred. Rape, beheadings, bodies burned alive. Hamas committed atrocities that recall the worst ravages of ISIS, unleashing pure unadulterated evil upon the world. There is no rationalizing it, no excusing it. Period.” He also recognized the reason why the attack, the worst on Jews since the Holocaust, was especially difficult: “It has brought to the surface painful memories and scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and the genocide of the Jewish people.”

Tangibly, Biden promised that he was going to request an “unprecedented” aid package from the U.S. Congress. He cited the need to continuously supply Israel’s Iron Dome, which will be especially important if the Jewish state is forced into a large two-front war with Hezbollah to its north. Additionally, Israel will require precision bombs to minimize civilian casualties as well as bunker busters to destroy the vast network of tunnels that Hamas uses to move its weapons and terrorists throughout Gaza. Biden reiterated that the USS Ford and USS Eisenhower would be stationed nearby to dissuade other regional parties from joining the conflict.

On the other hand, Biden pledged $100 million in U.S. humanitarian aid to Palestinians, which has historically been exploited by Hamas. Biden insisted, “If Hamas diverts or steals the assistance, they will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, and it will end.” But how much demonstration do we really need?

Biden insisted that “Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people,” but this is not rooted in reality. It’s merely meant to absolve Palestinians, who cheered as Hamas brought in dead bodies of Israelis, from any responsibility for the actions of the terrorist group.

Also, Biden argued that the U.S. made mistakes in its response to September 11, saying that “justice must be done” yet warning, “While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it.” He cautioned Israel against losing its values in its pursuit of justice. Of course, Israel, as always, will make its best efforts to minimize civilian casualties. But in a crowded urban-warfare campaign that is expected to drag on for months, against an enemy that uses its own civilians as human shields, there will undoubtedly be civilian deaths and horrors reported out of Gaza. The world reaction to the false report of the hospital blast is just a small inkling of what we can expect as the campaign drags on. If Biden truly has Israel’s back, he and his administration will continue to call out pro-Hamas misinformation from media outlets that are typically friendly to the administration and resist calls from his own side to restrain Israel from doing what it deems necessary to root out Hamas.

There’s a significant difference between being outraged and being “consumed” by rage. The latter implies that you may be behaving in a reckless and unwise fashion because you have been blinded by your emotions. But under extreme circumstances, outrage is clearly justified. The people of Israel are and should be outraged at what Hamas did. So should we. So should every decent human being on the planet.

Netanyahu has clearly not been blinded by rage. In fact, he’s show far more restraint than I expected and more than some analysts have thought was required. He could have launched a massive ground invasion of Gaza the day after the initial attacks, but he chose not to do that. He mopped up the remaining terrorists in his own country first while gathering intelligence for the anticipated move over the border. He gave days of fair warning to the Palestinians so they could try to evacuate the northern part of the Strip and avoid being killed. He even authorized the resumption of power, water, and critical supplies into the southern part of Gaza. He didn’t have to do any of that.

Bibi Netanyahu had demonstrated all of the restraint required and more. But he still has a job to do. Mistakes may still be made, just as we made mistakes in response to 9/11. (Invading Iraq and Joe’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan come to mind.) But abandoning the effort to destroy Hamas and prevent further attacks like the last one would be tantamount to surrender. If Hamas still exists next summer and can continue to rain rockets down on Israel, then the terrorists will have won. It’s a tricky situation and nobody wants to see this escalate into a regional war, but surrender is simply not an option for Israel if they want to world to recognize their right to exist.

In addition, crucially missing from Biden’s speech was any mention of Hamas’s benefactor — Iran. The administration has spent years diplomatically appeasing the terrorist regime as part of its efforts to revive Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal, and gives no sign — despite Tehran’s complicity in the Hamas attack — of changing course.

Biden came to Israel to deliver the message that “as long as the United States stands — and we will stand forever — we will not let you ever be alone.” Let’s hope he is still standing with Israel when it becomes much harder.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post