columnU.S.-Israel Relations

Biden is betraying American interests as well as Israel

The arms cutoff shows that Washington wants to let Hamas win the war it started on Oct. 7. This will do incalculable harm to U.S. interests abroad and at home.

Israeli reserve soldiers take part in a military drill in the Golan Heights in northern Israel on May 8, 2024. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
Israeli reserve soldiers take part in a military drill in the Golan Heights in northern Israel on May 8, 2024. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

This isn’t the first dispute between the governments of the United States and Israel. Nor is it the first time that Washington has used the supply of arms to try to pressure the Jewish state to bend to its will. But there is no precedent for what President Joe Biden has just done.

By declaring that he will stop supplying weapons to Israel, including high-tech heavy bombs and artillery shells, if it seeks to enter Rafah and eliminate Hamas’s last remaining stronghold in Gaza, the president was making a clear declaration that the United States was mandating an end to the war that the terrorist group began with the massacre of men, women and children on Oct. 7.

Should Israel bow to Biden’s diktat, then it would mean that a genocidal terrorist group wouldn’t merely survive to live and fight again, and thereby make good on its promise to commit more Oct. 7 horrors in the future. Such a development would also mean that Hamas would be seen as the victor in the conflict. That is something that would have far-reaching consequences not just for Israel and its security, but for regional Arab allies of the United States. It would also be a signal triumph for Hamas’s main backer Iran and its terrorist auxiliaries.

A duplicitous Holocaust speech

This shocking betrayal of Israel was made all the more bitter by the president’s duplicitous decision to hold off the announcement until after he gave a speech to commemorate the Holocaust at the U.S. Capitol on May 7—exactly seven months to the day of the atrocities—during which he expressed not just steadfast support for Israel, but a stinging rebuke of Hamas and a promise not to forget what it did on Oct. 7. At the time, given the fact that threats of an arms cutoff were already in the air, there was good reason to believe that the otherwise exemplary speech was part of a double game that the administration was playing, in which it sought to continue to speak out of both sides of its mouth on the war against Hamas.

But as could have been easily seen at the time, despite the president’s exhortation that he would “not forget” what Hamas had done or the plight of the hostages it took on Oct. 7, he had already done so.

The administration’s maneuverings had already removed any incentive that the Islamist group had to return the estimated 130 hostages it still holds (though no one knows how many are still alive) or give up its quest to get back control of Gaza it lost as a result of the Israeli counter-offensive. Biden’s team has been relentlessly pressuring Israel to make obscene concessions to the terrorists in the hostage negotiations. Unsurprisingly, no matter what Israel concedes, it’s never enough for Hamas. Since its leaders believe Biden won’t let them be defeated, they can continue to say “no” without any consequences.

The announcement of the arms cutoff will only make that more certain. Despite continuing to pay lip service to the quest for a hostage deal, Biden’s threats to Israel have basically sealed the fate of the hostages, including the five Americans still being held by Hamas, presumably somewhere in the tunnels underneath Rafah.

An unprecedented betrayal

Biden’s Jewish apologists can point to disputes between past Israeli governments and the Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Obama administrations, when Washington sought to use its leverage over Israel to force it to do its bidding. But never before has an American president done so in the midst of a war with a terrorist group with whom no peace deal is even theoretically possible.

It was one thing for Henry Kissinger to stop Israel from achieving a decisive victory over Egypt in the 1973 Yom Kippur War in the hope that this would lead—as it did a few years later—to an end to the conflict between those two nations. It’s quite another for Biden to save a genocidal group like Hamas from being destroyed and therefore make it the dominant voice of Palestinian nationalism for the foreseeable future.

Hopes for a two-state solution to the conflict were always a product of magical Western thinking that ignored the fact that neither Hamas nor the supposedly more moderate Fatah Party and the Palestinian Authority that it leads were equally unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders could be drawn. But allowing Hamas to hold onto control of any part of Gaza and to treat its preservation as an American foreign-policy priority that supersedes the alliance with Israel will ensure that the Islamists’ influence over Palestinian politics and culture will only increase.

Had the United States not prevented Israel from quickly and decisively defeating and eliminating every vestige of Hamas from Gaza, there could have been a chance for the Palestinians to understand that they needed to change their political culture, and genuinely embrace peace and coexistence with Israel. Much like the Germans who drew the only possible conclusion from the defeat of their country and the reduction of its cities to rubble in 1945, the Palestinians could have been forced to change. This was their opportunity to accept a shift in their sense of national identity, which, up until now, has been inextricably linked to their war to destroy Israel. But thanks to the international movement that arose to defend Hamas in the wake of Oct. 7 and the surge in antisemitism associated with it, the Palestinians remain still convinced that their fantasy of a world in which Israel is erased is possible. And by bowing to pressure from those who think this way, Biden has ensured that the slaughter will continue. That will help Hamas strengthen its presence in Judea and Samaria, and raise the possibility of a return to more Second Intifada-style terrorism.

It also means that even if Israel does do what it must and cleans out Rafah, the terrorist group will be encouraged to regroup and resume the fight as soon as it can. An Israel abandoned by the United States in this manner—and an arms cutoff will be just the start—will be subjected to American retaliation against the Jewish state for disobeying its superpower ally. The next step would be for Washington to go along with all sorts of U.N. sanctions or recognition of Palestinian statehood that will make Israel a pariah state.

No matter who is leading the Jewish state, Israel will not meekly surrender to this kind of pressure. Netanyahu pointed out that the 1948 War of Independence was won without U.S. arms. Indeed, as few people now seem to remember, America didn’t begin to treat Israel as an ally, rather than an annoyance and obstacle to good relations with hostile Arab states, until after it won the 1967 Six-Day War—again, largely without any real help from the Americans.

But the rupture of the alliance diminishes Israel’s strategic position in ways that are incalculable. If Hamas is still standing at the end of this war or if Israel is censured for eliminating the terror group, the threats against its security will swiftly escalate along with its international isolation. That will make the situation in the north—where Iran’s Hezbollah terrorist auxiliaries have made the border communities uninhabitable—only worse. It will also embolden Iran to use its control of Syria and its Houthis allies in Yemen to further tighten the noose around a beleaguered Jewish state.

But this isn’t only bad news for Israel.

A gift to Iran and other foes

Much as the Biden administration may still hold onto their hopes of a rapprochement with Iran, that is something that Tehran has never been interested in. They believe themselves to be at war with the West and America, even if many in the foreign-policy establishment here and in Europe wish to ignore this fact.

A defeat for Israel would make it impossible to expand on the Abraham Accords that former President Donald Trump achieved in 2020. Biden and his mouthpieces, like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, may think that they can trade Saudi Arabian recognition of Israel for a Palestinian state that would be a reward for Hamas terrorism. The Saudis, of course, have no interest in the creation of another failed state in the region that would inevitably be linked to its Iranian enemies. An isolated Israel would not be the “strong horse” that Sunni Arabs see as a bulwark against Iran. They would have no choice but to make their peace with Tehran, meaning a diminishment of American influence in the region, whose energy resources remain important to the West.

But the consequences for the United States won’t be restricted to the Middle East.

Following the disgraceful American retreat from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, the abandonment of an ally under attack in this manner will also send a message to other American allies about Washington’s fecklessness. That will strengthen the resolve of Russia to continue the war against Ukraine, as well as undermine Taiwan. Betraying Israel will weaken America’s credibility everywhere.

Why is Biden doing this?

To listen to the White House, they are solely motivated by humanitarian concerns about a battle in Rafah harming too many Palestinian civilians. In doing so, they are merely amplifying a lie about Israel’s military committing “genocide” in Gaza that Biden should be refuting. Israel hasn’t been engaging in wanton or indiscriminate attacks on Palestinians and has instead done its best to avoid civilian casualties—and doing so more successfully than any other modern army engaged in urban warfare.

The decision to heed the calls to limit or end aid to Israel is motivated largely by politics and assumptions on the part of the White House and left-wing Democrats about his faltering re-election campaign. After months of protests from the intersectional base of his party, Biden has done a 180-degree turn from his initial commendable support for Israel and the goal of eliminating Hamas.

As with his blunders on the international stage, this is a staggeringly obtuse mistake. Merely cutting off some arms won’t stop the antisemitic mobs on college campuses or in the streets of American cities from calling Biden “genocide Joe.” It will, in fact, only further embolden them to step up their pressure for a complete rupture with the Jewish state that Biden wouldn’t be able to satisfy even if Netanyahu orders the capture of Rafah. It will also ensure that the Democratic National Convention in Chicago this summer will be besieged by pro-Hamas demonstrators, further inflaming divisions between the leftist Democratic base and the remnants of the party’s centrists. It also ignores the fact that there are still far more votes to be lost in the pro-Israel political center of this country than on the Israel-hating left.

Fueling the surge in antisemitism

Yet the fecklessness of this move is a reminder that this is not merely a political miscalculation but an illustration of the core ideology of most of Biden’s advisers. This band of Obama administration alumni is still burning with the desire to bring Israel to heel and make it accept a re-ordering of American foreign policy in which allies like the Jewish state and the Saudis are downgraded to prioritize better relations with Iran.

Though they were frustrated in their hopes of reviving former President Barack Obama’s disastrously weak 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Biden’s first years in office, Oct. 7 presented them with a new opportunity to push for creating more “daylight” between Israel and the United States. The largest mass murder of Jews since World War II and the Holocaust reinvigorated the Iran appeasers, just as it did antisemitic foes of Israel in the streets and on college campuses.

Put in the proper perspective, the abandonment of Israel should not be seen as just another spat between the two countries about the right path towards peace or how to handle terrorist threats. Instead, it is a consequence of the rise of woke ideology throughout American society and the successful long march of the “progressives” through U.S. institutions. The goal of this movement isn’t just to impose racialist policies that will further divide Americans but also to harm the one Jewish state on the planet.

That is awful for Israel. But it is also a terrible blow to the United States. Biden’s decision is not just a gift for Hamas but also a win for the same advocates of antisemitism that the president condemned in his Holocaust commemoration speech. It will inflame the already troubling surge in antisemitism that is so frightening to American Jews.

A plucky and resourceful Jewish state will suffer from Biden’s disgraceful decision, but it will survive it. The consequences for American influence and power abroad, as well as for decency at home, may be just as if not more far-reaching.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates