OpinionU.S.-Israel Relations

Biden’s Mideast foreign-policy expert

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris “has emerged as one of the leading voices for Palestinians in closed-door meetings,” writes “The New York Times.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, arrive in Guatemala, June 9, 2021. Credit: Office of the Vice President via Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, arrive in Guatemala, June 9, 2021. Credit: Office of the Vice President via Wikimedia Commons.
Jerold S. Auerbach
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of 12 books, including Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel (1896-2016) and Israel 1896-2016, selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a “Best Book for 2019.”

The Biden administration has a newly self-appointed expert on the Israeli war in Gaza. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, according to The New York Times, “has emerged as one of the leading voices for Palestinians in closed-door meetings.” Blaming Israel for not doing enough to ease the “humanitarian catastrophe”—caused by Hamas with its brutal October slaughter of more than 1,200 Israelis at an outdoor music festival—she has cited “the immense scale of suffering in Gaza” as “truly heartbreaking.”

The murderous suffering of Israelis was ignored. She calls for an “immediate ceasefire”—by Israel, not by Hamas.

Asserting that she and President Joe Biden remain “unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security,” Harris provided no evidence to support her claim. Indeed, the Times article, written by three reporters, noted that “on multiple occasions,” Harris has advised Biden that his administration “must show more empathy for Palestinian civilians.” Her own empathy was evident, focusing on the “hungry, desperate people in Gaza” whose suffering requires that the Israeli government “must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses.” No attention was paid to the grieving family members of murdered Israelis or families of the hostages.

Harris, according to one source, believes that the United States should be “tougher” on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and “more forceful at seeking a long-term peace and two-state solution.” Israel, she acknowledged, has the right to defend itself, but “it matters how” it does so. She noted that “too many innocent Palestinians have been killed” and “the scale of civilian suffering … is truly heartbreaking.” The scale of Israeli civilian suffering was ignored.

To be sure, Harris is a loyal follower in Biden’s footsteps. Frustrated by his inability to persuade Israel to ease its military attack in the Gaza Strip, the president has blamed Netanyahu for the toll exacted on its besieged residents. In a telephone conversation with the prime minister last month, Biden reaffirmed their shared goal of a defeated Hamas. But he has strongly asserted his commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with Gaza and the West Bank “reunited under a single government structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian authority.”

Sandwiching Israel between a unified Gaza and the West Bank is unlikely to appeal to Israelis. Once the war with Hamas erupted, Netanyahu firmly rejected that proposal.

Gaza is not the only source of division between Biden and Netanyahu. One month ago, the president lacerated “the high levels of extremist settler violence” in biblical Judea and Samaria (Jordan’s “West Bank” until Israel regained its ancient homeland in the 1967 Six-Day War). “These actions,” Biden asserted, “undermine the foreign-policy objectives of the United States, including the viability of a two-state solution.” The result, he declared, is “a national emergency.” The likelihood that Netanyahu can be persuaded to embrace Biden’s yearning for a two-state solution is nil.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has offered his own contribution to the Biden-Netanyahu disagreement. Interviewed by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, whose decades of unrelenting laceration of Israel help to explain his rise to journalistic prominence, Blinken understands that “there has to be another way that answers Israel’s most profound concerns and questions.” But given Hamas preference for viciously murdering Jewish fathers, mothers and children, it may be difficult to find that “other way.”

Blinken, to his credit, is attentive to Israel’s dilemma: It can endure Hamas murders to please its critics (Biden conspicuous among them) or pursue its destruction by any means necessary.

But insistence—whether by the United States or other nations (and certain newspapers)—that once the Hamas war has ended, a way must be found for “a pathway to a Palestinian state” is highly unlikely to gain Israel’s approval. A pathway to Israel’s security, with the decimation of Hamas’s ability to repeat its ghastly murders of innocent Jews, is far more urgent.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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