columnU.S.-Israel Relations

Blinken’s Rafah blunder

The U.S. secretary of state’s warnings to Israel are music to Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar’s ears.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Israeli President's Residence in Jerusalem, Feb. 7, 2024. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Israeli President's Residence in Jerusalem, Feb. 7, 2024. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a press conference on Thursday in Cairo, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated his opposition to an Israeli ground operation in Rafah, saying that such a move would be a “mistake.”

An invasion into the southern Gaza city, he stated, was “unnecessary” to achieving the goal of defeating Hamas. This attitude, which the Biden administration has been expressing with increasing fervor, runs counter to Israeli assessments.

It has become the key bone of contention between Washington and Jerusalem since the start of the Oct. 7 war, spurred by a massacre of Jews that hadn’t been seen since the Holocaust.

Other disagreements—surrounding the use of Israeli force, civilian Palestinian casualties and plans for “the day after”—have been mild in comparison. Or at least they’ve been treated by Israel as arguments that can be addressed through a presentation of the facts.

This hasn’t been simply a tactical ploy to avert discord. On the contrary, the justice of destroying the genocidal terrorist organization that controls territory along Israel’s southern border and vows to repeat the atrocities of Oct. 7 “again and again and again” is irrefutable.

Anyone disputing Israel’s duty to eradicate Hamas—for the survival of the Jewish state, as well as for the benefit of the region and the world—is on the wrong side of history. Period.

Furthermore, Israel has the data to support the extreme measures it employs to avoid non-combatant deaths in Gaza. It has proof of the huge quantities of humanitarian aid entering the Strip. It also has evidence of its efforts to prevent Hamas from stealing the goods.

Blinken is fully aware of the above. He is equally cognizant that the war would end in an instant if Hamas surrendered unconditionally and released the remaining 134 hostages, among them U.S. citizens, held in its sadistic, sexually abusive captivity.

But since the only pressure Hamas understands is that exerted by Israel Defense Forces bombs and troops, America’s top diplomat has no recourse but to powwow with Qatar and Egypt. The former has close ties with Iran and provides refuge for “exiled” Hamas bigwigs.

The latter shares a border with Gaza. Though porous enough to have enabled the flow of materials for the construction of hundreds of miles of Hamas terror tunnels, it has been totally impenetrable for Gaza residents who wish to leave.

Has Blinken raised these issues during his shuttle diplomacy excursions to the Middle East to “mediate” a deal for the release of the hostages that involves a halt in the fighting? Of course not.

No, “as a Jew,” he’s been too busy warning Israel about the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza and pushing for a “sustained” ceasefire. You know, to persuade Hamas to free the innocent men, women and children whom it mercilessly abducted from their homes and a neighboring music festival nearly half a year ago.

The Israeli War Cabinet’s adamance about going into Rafah—to wipe out the last Hamas battalions and locate the hostages—is thus especially inconvenient. Hence, Blinken and his boss in the White House are promoting a fantasy as far-fetched as the “two-state solution” and nuclear agreement with Iran: that Hamas can be destroyed by “other means.”

Apparently, they think that it’s possible to win this war without killing any more terrorists or the human shields behind whom they hide. Talk about music to Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar’s ears.

No wonder his ultimate demand is for a full IDF withdrawal from Gaza and continued Hamas reign in the enclave. He doesn’t want to agree to a temporary ceasefire in exchange for hostages.

His having done so in November was due to two factors. One was IDF might. The other was the assumption that Israel wouldn’t have the wherewithal or legitimacy to resume fighting.

He was right about the first and wrong about the second. Today, however, thanks to U.S. admonitions about Rafah, Sinwar has cause to up any ante on offer.

It’s not clear, then, what Blinken meant by announcing in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and in Egypt the following day that the “gaps are narrowing” in the negotiations. Perhaps he can explain how he reached that baseless conclusion when he meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday in Israel.

And Netanyahu would do well to point out how unwise it is—particularly with a new round of talks kicking off in Doha—to make pronouncements that embolden Sinwar and raise false hopes for the desperate families of the hostages.

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