OpinionMiddle East

Israel’s American frenemy

Instead of regarding Iran as the mortal enemy not just of Israel, but of America and the civilized world, the Biden administration is treating it as an asset that must be protected.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on Jan. 9, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on Jan. 9, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
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: melaniephillips.substack.com.

Astonishingly, Israel has to fight right now to defend its existence not just against a line-up of mortal foes doing the bidding of Iran but also against the Jewish state’s most important ally, America.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who came to Israel this week to bully it into a ceasefire in Gaza, preposterously demanded a one-to-one private meeting with the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of the General Staff, Herzi Halevi.

At the meeting that took place instead with the war cabinet, Blinken was reportedly put out when Halevi said the war would continue for months because of the challenge mounted by the vast extent of Hamas’s underground military infrastructure.

Put out, that is, by Israel’s refusal to leave itself once again at the mercy of Hamas’s genocidal agenda.

Blinken then publicly bared America’s teeth. Although in his remarks alongside Israeli President Isaac Herzog, he was careful to say that he appreciated Israel’s emphasis on protecting civilians and providing humanitarian assistance, he gave vent at a press conference to accusations that echoed the malevolent demonization of Israel around the world.

He declared “the daily toll that [Israel’s] military operations continue to take on innocent civilians remains too high”; urged Israel “to do more to help civilians”; and said although Israelis had been dehumanized, “that cannot be a license to dehumanize others. The overwhelming majority of people in Gaza had nothing to do with the attacks of Oct. 7.”

This was all breathtakingly malign. Since the ratio of civilians to terrorists killed in Gaza is running at around two or three civilians to one terrorist—far lower than the proportion of civilians killed in U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan—on what conceivable basis is the number of Gaza civilian casualties “too high”?

Israel goes to greater lengths than any other country to protect enemy civilians in times of war. Moreover, from what’s been said by returning IDF soldiers and released hostages, the overwhelming majority of Gaza’s civilians supported the Hamas atrocities, in which many of them participated while others subjected the abducted Israelis to abuse and ill-treatment.

In addition, U.S. President Joe Biden has issued an unprecedented executive order banning from America four Israeli residents of the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria who are said to have committed violence against Palestinian Arabs.

One of these Israelis is in prison while the other three have legal actions pending against them. The order goes further, alleging that “high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel and the broader Middle East region.”

This is an intolerable slander. While there is a problem with violent “hilltop youth” that must be dealt with, the vast majority of Israelis living in these territories are entirely peaceful. What’s more, the order makes no mention of the dozens of attacks on these Jews every day, some of them resulting in murder or injury.

The order is demonstrably unnecessary, a gesture of contempt towards Israeli justice and a gratuitous act of hostility and spite. Along with Blinken’s remarks, it will further fuel the truly dehumanizing frenzy of slanderous Jew-hatred now consuming America and the West.

At the same time, American military aid has been essential to Israel’s war effort. So how is this apparent incoherence to be explained?

One factor is the imminence of the U.S. presidential election and the pressure on Biden from pro-Palestinians screaming that he is aiding Israeli “genocide.” More disturbingly, the Biden administration needs to end this uproar in the Middle East because it wants to get back on track with its strategy of appeasing Iran.

The shocking fact is that instead of regarding Iran as the mortal enemy not just of Israel, but of America and the civilized world, the Biden administration is treating it as an asset that must be protected.

That’s why, despite dozens of Iranian-sponsored attacks on American facilities over the past four months, the United States has made only limp responses.

One consequence of that feebleness was last month’s drone attack by Iranian proxies in Jordan, which killed three U.S. service members and injured more than 40. America’s strikes in response to that attack have mostly been laughable, with copious warnings ensuring that they largely hit only empty camps.

Not surprisingly, given this display of weakness, British and U.S. vessels were this week targeted again by the Iran-backed Houthis of Yemen even after the third round of retaliatory strikes.

Although a further U.S. strike killed a senior member of the militia that reportedly mounted the Jordan attack, Iran will only be deterred by a strike on its own assets such as an oil refinery or an Iranian ship. Instead, Washington is issuing hand-on-heart declarations that Iran is not a target.

Astonishingly, the Biden administration even now hopes to renew the 2015 nuclear agreement. This was always a terrible deal since it would have enabled a legitimate Iranian nuclear weapon with only a few years’ delay while it funneled billions into Tehran’s war chest through sanctions relief.

Ostensibly, the United States still hopes that a successor deal would bring Iran in from the cold. In fact, it would empower Tehran still further, just as the Obama and Biden administrations have so catastrophically been doing.

So how can such a patently delusional policy be explained?

Some Bidenites clearly subscribe to the liberal fantasy that all conflict can be ended by negotiated compromise based on a universal drive for self-interest. Other members of the administration are viscerally hostile to Israel. Far worse, some of these have had links to Iran.

Last September, the news platform Semafor and the London-based émigré opposition outlet Iran International reported from thousands of leaked emails that Iran had infiltrated the Obama administration.

Three people in an Iranian network were aides to U.S. envoy Robert Malley, who was the point man on Iran under both the Obama and Biden administrations until he was removed last June following a still unexplained “mishandling of classified material.”

The leak also revealed that more than ten Iranian analysts in Western think tanks, including Ali Vaez and Dina Esfandiary—two employees of the powerful International Crisis Group—were part of an influence network called the Iran Experts Initiative formed and guided by Tehran.

Last week, Iran International and Semafor further reported that, during the Obama administration, the Crisis Group formed a secret alliance with Iran which used it to lobby the U.S. government throughout the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal.

In 2002, Malley founded and directed the Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program. After being appointed in February 2014 to the National Security Council’s staff under the Obama administration, he left the group but continued to use Vaez to send messages to Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Zarif, and sent Vaez to Vienna to meet Iranian officials. In January 2018, Malley became the Crisis Group’s president and CEO.

The leaked materials showed that within a month of his return to government in 2021, Malley helped infiltrate Ariane Tabatabai, who was associated with the Iranian network as an agent of influence, into the U.S. State Department to assist him in his negotiations with Iran.

Tabatabai then moved to the Pentagon, where even today she still serves as chief of staff to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations Christopher Maier—what’s more, in an office that oversees hostage recovery.

Anti-Israel protests against Biden have given the impression that his administration is on Israel’s side. America’s Jewish leaders need to start telling the American people that “Genocide Joe” is putting the United States and the West at ever greater risk and is actually helping those who intend the genocide of the Jews.

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