columnU.S.-Israel Relations

Can Israel afford to stand up to America?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is addressing Congress because he has no other option.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak to reporters in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak to reporters in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, Guardian Angel, has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, The Legacy, in 2018. To access her work, go to:

There’s no denying the severe tensions between the Biden administration and the Israeli government over the war being waged against Israel by Iran and its proxies.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly accused U.S. President Joe Biden of withholding weapons and ammunition from the embattled Jewish state.

Two weeks later, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the U.S. was withholding from Israel no fewer than seven weapons systems.

Ever since the Oct. 7 Palestinian Arab pogrom in southern Israel, America has been giving to Israel with one hand while chaining it with the other.

The Biden administration has made Israel slow down its attempt to destroy Hamas in Gaza, repeatedly forcing the Israelis into paralyzing ceasefire negotiations that have given Hamas the upper hand and insisting on humanitarian aid supplies, most of which were stolen by Hamas to strengthen itself.

Crucially, the U.S. forced Israel not to take early preemptive action against Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the terror group has embedded among the civilian population around 150,000 rockets and missiles. As a result, there have been hundreds of missile and rocket strikes on northern Israel, with more than 60,000 Israelis displaced from their homes over the past nine months while swathes of the upper Galilee have been burned to the ground.

The Iranian regime has said that if Hezbollah is seriously attacked, Iran will “obliterate” Israel. Hezbollah’s foreign relations chief, Khalil Rizk, said on Al-Manar TV last month: “Is this war now with Israel? My answer is that this is not a war with Israel. Israel is merely a tool. The main war, the real war, is with America.”

Yet astoundingly, the Biden administration wants an empowered Iran to be a key pillar of the future architecture of the Middle East. It purports to believe this will produce “stability.” Accordingly, the U.S. is actually protecting Iran from Israel, the nation that the genocidal Iranian regime has sworn to exterminate.

Even when Iran fired a barrage of rockets and drones at Israel in April and America and others scrambled to help knock them out, the U.S. stopped Israel from responding robustly.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Netanyahu had pushed Biden hard on the need to hit Iran and avoid looking weak. “Let me be crystal clear,” Biden was said to have told Netanyahu in a phone call. “If you launch a big attack on Iran, you’re on your own. You do this and I’m out.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has acknowledged that the evacuation of the north under daily Hezbollah rocket and missile attacks has meant Israel has shrunk.  Yet he behaves as if this intolerable development emanates from Israel’s actions in Gaza and that a ceasefire there would put Hezbollah back in its box.

Accordingly, the U.S. is solemnly “negotiating” with Hezbollah, just as it “negotiated” with Iran. The Bidenites really believe that genocidal fanatics can be reasoned out of their intention to murder, destroy and conquer. This is beyond grotesque.

Of course, Hezbollah would end its attacks if Israel ended its war in Gaza now with Hamas still unconquered and the hostages still incarcerated, because that would mean Israel had surrendered and was fatally weakened.

Hezbollah could take its time before launching even more deadly Oct. 7-style attacks picking off the border communities of northern Israel. It could continue like that forever. And meanwhile, Iran will get the bomb.

Indeed, Iran may not want an all-out war right now. The current situation suits it well as part of its strategy of attrition: to encircle Israel with a stranglehold of terror, subject it to never-ending attacks, cripple its economy, demoralize its people so that increasing numbers flee and eventually destroy it with the aid of a world whose minds and institutions Iran has helped poison against the Jewish people.

Hezbollah has to be neutralized. But it has now stated that if Israel launches an all-out war against it, this will be a war with Iran.

The only way through this nightmare is to strike the head of the snake itself in Tehran. Israel cannot afford to wait until Haifa or Tel Aviv start sustaining massive casualties from Hezbollah’s vast arsenal or Iran itself. Faced with such an enemy, a preemptive strike that gains the initiative is essential.

But for that to happen, Israel needs America. And it’s far from clear that the Biden administration would come to Israel’s aid even in a war limited to Hezbollah but in which Iran would unleash itself along with its proxies in Iraq, Yemen and the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria.

Against this dire backdrop, Netanyahu is going to America in three weeks’ time to address Congress. Among the many who loathe and distrust him, there is nervousness and criticism that he may make a bad situation even worse by criticizing Biden so close to the presidential election.

There are fears that he may repeat what such people believe was the harmful result he achieved when he addressed Congress in 2015 in an attempt to head off President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Obama outfoxed him with some fancy Beltway footwork, and the deal was duly done. Netanyahu’s critics say that he therefore achieved nothing but bad blood with Obama. The same fears are being expressed over the likely effect on Biden of this month’s visit.

But this is to get things back to front. In both instances, Netanyahu decided to address Congress because an already virulently hostile administration posed such a danger to Israel that he could not remain silent.

In 2015, he had a moral duty to lay out for Congress and the American people the dire consequences of Obama’s Iran deal. That warning has been amply borne out. In 2024, Netanyahu has a moral duty to explain to Congress and the American people the dire consequences of the Biden administration’s appeasement of Iran, why Israel is fighting a war for its survival unlike any other since its foundation and that the seven-front war against it is merely the opening shot in Iran’s war against America and the West.

What Netanyahu’s critics fail to acknowledge is that he is a supremely cautious politician. He rarely airs his grievances with the U.S. in public. When he does so, it signifies desperation. It’s because he feels he has no other option.

That’s why he addressed Congress in 2015. It’s why he outed the Biden administration for holding up the delivery of weapons essential to the war effort. And it’s why he’s beating a lonely path back to Congress once again.

His intended audience isn’t just U.S. lawmakers. It isn’t just the American people. It’s also the Arab and Muslim world, which is watching carefully and where the stakes for Israel are very high.

For what inspires aggression and war in the Middle East is above all the perception of weakness. If Israel is seen to be bullied into surrender by the Biden administration, the Arab and Muslim world will smell that weakness. The Arabs may accordingly retreat from their recent historic overtures of friendship or Iran will move in for the kill. It is therefore essential that Israel is seen to be standing up to America.

As the former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger has observed, the State Department has systematically pressured Israel to act against its own security requirements ever since 1948.

And it never learns from experience. The Obama-Biden strategy of appeasement empowered Iran, created the conditions for the Oct. 7 pogrom and is leading the free world to catastrophe.

As Ettinger has said, the question is not how Israel can afford to stand up to America. It’s how can Israel afford not to.

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