OpinionIsrael at War

Joe Biden’s Israel policies has my head spinning

Backing the Jewish state’s war efforts while expressing reservations about its leadership affects negotiations and decision-making during the conflict.

The “USS Dwight D. Eisenhower” and other naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz on Nov. 26, 2023. Credit:  Information Technician Second Class Ruskin Naval/U.S. Navy Photo.
The “USS Dwight D. Eisenhower” and other naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz on Nov. 26, 2023. Credit: Information Technician Second Class Ruskin Naval/U.S. Navy Photo.
Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

U.S. President Joe Biden’s approach to Israel since the start of the Oct. 7 war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip has my head spinning. His approach has been marked by a delicate balancing act that attempts to support a key ally on one hand while addressing humanitarian concerns faced by Gazan civilians on the other. However, this balancing act—some might call it “nuanced”—has led to contradictions that impact the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. Remember that it began after a horde of Hamas terrorists invaded Israeli communities along the Gaza border, murdered 1,200 people, and kidnapped some 250 Israelis and citizens of other countries, including a number who hold citizenship in the United States.

I have no doubt that Biden’s quickly spoken words of support for Israel and his ordering the U.S. Navy to post two carrier strike groups off of Israel’s Mediterranean coast were sincere in their intent and purpose to thwart any ideas that Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsor may have had for joining in the war against Israel. Israel was quick to recognize Biden’s support when, within a week after the ground war started, large posters thanking him appeared in cities around the country. (The one near my home in Jerusalem is now down.)

But let’s look at the contradictions:

First, Biden has repeatedly emphasized his “ironclad” support for Israel. His visit to Israel on Oct. 18 so soon after the terrorist attacks was evidence of that. His recent comments in response to Iran’s missile launches and drone attacks overnight on April 13-14 are another example.

Yet at the same time, while recognizing Israel’s need to eliminate Hamas, the administration bemoans the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza that the war has created. Its call for increased aid to and the protection of civilians reflects this concern without in any way laying the blame for the crisis at the feet of Hamas, which steals food and fuel being delivered to the Strip before it can reach the Palestinian public.

Second, the Biden administration supports Israel’s military actions against threats posed by Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. However, it also questions the motives of Israel’s war cabinet and chastises Israel for not having a game plan in place for administering Gaza “the day after” the war ends. Calls by leading Democrat politicians for what effectively is regime change in Israel could not have happened without clearance from the White House.

Thus, backing Israel’s war efforts while expressing reservations about its leadership affects negotiations and decision-making during the conflict.

Iran’s attack on Israel and the resulting U.S. involvement shows the third contradiction. For when Tehran launched its barrage of more than 300 missiles and drones, the U.S. military assisted Israel in intercepting many of them. Then, within hours and after witnessing a modern-day miracle of military technology, the Biden administration was urging Israel’s leadership to use restraint in any response. “Take the win,” Biden stated.

So, supporting Israel’s defense against Iranian aggression while urging restraint creates a delicate juggling act even in the best of times, and at this time, affects the dynamics of the conflict and raises more questions about escalation than it answers.

Fourth, and perhaps most significantly, the contradiction can be summed up in one word: Rafah. A city of some 175,000 people located on the border between Gaza and Egypt has now swelled by some estimates to 1.4 million people due to the influx of those who left the northern part of the coastal enclave following the Israeli incursion to root out and destroy Hamas. Rafah is the last Hamas stronghold with an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 fighters in its midst.

Publicly, the Biden administration has disagreed with Israel over how to remove Hamas terrorists from Rafah, which Israel believes has to be done in order to secure the country’s safety. Anything less than eradicating the terrorist organization there will be deemed by many as a win of the war by Hamas.

At the end of the day, Biden’s policies remain contradictory. The administration’s attempt to balance unwavering support for Israel’s war efforts, along with defense for future Iranian and Hezbollah attacks with humanitarian considerations for Gaza’s civilians, impacts negotiations, Israel’s military actions and civilian safety. As the war continues, finding a coherent path forward remains a challenge. Is the American president up to dealing with it?

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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