The deepening antipathy of the Biden administration toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening to derail Israel’s military offensive to destroy Hamas.
With every day that the Israel Defense Forces maintains its effort to end the threat to Israeli security posed by Hamas’s presence in Gaza, more details emerge of the staggering underground terrorist infrastructure the Iranian-backed group has constructed in Gaza.
In the three months since Israel launched its military offensive against Hamas following the deadly Oct. 7 attacks, in which Hamas killed at least 1,200 people and took hundreds more hostage, IDF commanders have been astonished at the extent of the 350-mile tunnel network, with 5,700 entrance shafts, which Hamas has constructed in the Gaza Strip with the specific aim of increasing its ability to launch terrorist attacks against Israel. It has been called “a city under a city” and a “fortress under a city.”
Nicknamed the “Gaza metro” by Israelis, the tunnel network has been built with the hundreds of millions of dollars the terrorist group has received in funding from Iran and Qatar. Many of the tunnels’ primary function is to smuggle military equipment into Gaza from Egypt, which can then be used to launch attacks against Israel.
The tunnels, some of which are large enough to accommodate cars, are used to transport people and goods, store rockets and ammunition caches and house Hamas command and control centers. By locating its terrorist infrastructure underground, Hamas has made it immensely more difficult for the IDF to monitor its activities.
The terror group also uses civilian infrastructure in Gaza, such as schools and hospitals, as the location for some of its main command and control centers, with one major center being located beneath Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital.
The IDF has accused the Hamas terrorists responsible for planning and executing the Oct. 7 attacks of hiding inside these passages beneath homes and inside buildings populated by Gazan civilians, effectively turning them into human shields.
As Israel’s chief military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, explained at the start of the IDF’s offensive in October:
“Hamas has turned hospitals into command and control centers and hideouts for Hamas terrorists and commanders…Hamas terrorists operate inside and under Shifa hospital and other hospitals in Gaza.”
Hamas, moreover, continues to pose a deadly threat to Israel despite the significant progress the IDF has so far made in dismantling the organization’s terrorist infrastructure in northern Gaza. Relentless, Hamas terrorists launched at least 25 rockets at Israel from central Gaza last week at the southern Israeli city of Netivot.
The continuing threat Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure poses to Israel’s security has prompted Netanyahu to warn that the IDF operation to destroy the organization could last into 2025. Rejecting claims by critics that the IDF’s goals are not achievable, Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with the military offensive for many months. “We will not settle for anything short of an absolute victory,” he declared.
The Israeli premier has also reiterated his long-standing opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state, which he insists would become a launching pad for attacks on Israel.
Israel’s efforts to achieve its goal of destroying Hamas, though, are at serious risk of being undermined by the Biden administration’s growing hostility towards Netanyahu’s government.
Biden has been ambivalent about Israel’s quest to destroy Hamas since the outset of the IDF’s offensive in Gaza. While pledging to maintain military support for Jerusalem, Biden and his officials have adopted an increasingly critical attitude toward Israel, questioning both its military tactics and Netanyahu’s war aims.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeated Washington’s view that a two-state solution was the best solution to the conflict, arguing that without a “pathway to a Palestinian state” Israel would not “get genuine security.”
The deepening rift between Biden and Netanyahu was clearly evident during the latest exchange between the two leaders, the first time they had made contact in four weeks. While Netanyahu again voiced his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state in their 30-40-minute call on Friday, Biden focused on reaffirming his commitment to work toward helping the Palestinians move toward statehood.
“As we’re talking about post-conflict Gaza…you can’t do that without also talking about the aspirations of the Palestinian people and what that needs to look like for them,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said after the call took place.
The deepening tensions between Washington and Jerusalem have even led members of Congress to call for the United States to reassess its support for Israel, with Pramila Jayapal, the U.S. Representative who heads the questionable Congressional Progressive Caucus, claiming Netanyahu’s stance “should cause us to reset our relationship of unconditional support to [his] government.”
There are credible indications, moreover, that the Biden administration’s hostility toward Netanyahu has led it to work with senior figures within Israel’s security establishment, which is known to have a difficult relationship with the Israeli premier, to remove his government from power.
Relations between Netanyahu and his security chiefs have been at a low ebb since the Oct. 7 attacks, with Israeli intelligence chiefs being blamed for the catastrophic failures which enabled Hamas to carry out its attack. No one in the United States, to our knowledge, ever blamed U.S. President George W. Bush for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Furthermore, there seems to be no evidence that Israel’s prime minister had even been made aware of the documents that described an invasion from Gaza.
Any attempt, though, by the Biden administration to work with Israeli’s security chiefs to bring down the Netanyahu government would not only be a gross violation of Israeli sovereignty. It would also go against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Israelis who, after the appalling events of Oct. 7, understandably have little interest in an independent Palestinian state.
A recent poll shows that 81% of Israelis, including Arab Israelis, say there is no prospect for peace with the Palestinians, including 70% of left-wing voters. Some 88% of Israelis say they do not trust the Palestinian leadership. With good reason: the Palestinian leadership has always been just as deeply and outspokenly committed to the destruction of Israel as Hamas is. (See also here, here, here, here and here.)
Instead of trying to overthrow the Netanyahu government, the Biden administration would be better advised to grasp the vital strategic consideration that defeating Hamas is as much in the interest of the United States as it is of Israel.
Hamas and its Iranian backers are dedicated not only to the destruction of Israel: they are committed to attacking the United States and its allies in the Middle East, as the recent attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria have demonstrated.
Destroying Hamas as a terrorist entity will therefore send a clear and unequivocal message to Iran and its allies that Washington is prepared to defend its interests in the Middle East, and its closest ally, Israel.
Originally published by The Gatestone Institute.