OpinionIsrael at War

The US is trying to play both sides

Supporting Israel and Ukraine while paying off Iran is an absurd and dangerous policy.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the White House during Jewish Heritage Month on May 16, 2023. Credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the White House during Jewish Heritage Month on May 16, 2023. Credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz.
Shoshana Bryen
Shoshana Bryen
Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly.

I was interested in reading U.S. President Joe Biden’s Washington Post op-ed on the Israel-Hamas war, so I went to the Post’s website. A list of articles about him appeared, along with one that looked like this:

رأي | جو بايدن: الولايات المتحدة لن تتراجع أمام تحدي بوتين وحماس

By Joe Biden

Nov. 20, 2023 at 5:11 p.m. EST

I had to hit “English.” Have you ever done that with an American newspaper?

And then there was this: Writing about Israelis, Mr. Biden said, “Young men were shot dead at a music festival.” Why was there no mention of the fact that dozens of women were brutally gang-raped and mutilated before they were murdered at that festival?

Was Biden trying to spare the sensitivities of readers to whom the mixed audience at the festival might be upsetting? If so, what about Israeli families whose daughters were massacred there? Did Biden think they wouldn’t be upset that their daughters were erased?

There’s been enough erasing of dead Jews, thank you, including the 1,200 massacred on Oct. 7 in the most ghoulish ways imaginable. (Or unimaginable. Who would have thought that in the 21st century, a sicko would bake a baby in an oven in front of his parents—who, mercifully in this case, did not survive?)

Then I came to the substance of the article.

No, actually, I didn’t.

The president began with a denunciation of Russian President Vladimir Putin and an expression of support for Ukraine. He noted, “Both Putin and Hamas are fighting for a common goal: wiping a democracy neighboring their respective countries off the map. Both Putin and Hamas hope for a collapse of broader regional stability and integration and benefit from the chaos that might ensue.”

Certainly, Russia is no friend of Israel in this case, but it is Iran that has collapsed governments in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. It is Iran that funds Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is Iran that is working to undermine Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Abraham Accords countries. It is Iran-sponsored militias that have attacked American troops in Syria and Iraq.

And it is the United States that is a) unwilling to call out Iran, and b) unwilling to make the mullahs in Tehran pay a price for their monstrous behavior.

Yet it is Iran that built armed drones in violation of U.N. sanctions on missile technology. It is Iran that used parts illegally imported from China to build those drones. It is Iran that sold them to Russia for use in Ukraine. In other words, Iran is aiding Russia and undermining the Ukrainian government American taxpayers have thus far spent $64 billion supporting.

In the Middle East, where did Yemen’s Houthi rebels get missiles that they aim at Israel? From Iran. Where did Hamas get the machinery to build rockets and missiles in Gaza? From Iran. Where did Hezbollah get the 150,000 rockets and missiles they’ve dug into southern Lebanon, including precision missiles? From Iran.

Not from Russia. From Iran.

Appallingly, Washington is protecting Iran’s assets in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s extraordinary array of rockets and missiles was meant to be for retaliation against Israel should Israel find it necessary to conduct a military strike on Iran. Iran has not been willing to use this safety valve on behalf of Hamas or the Palestinians.

If parking a U.S. battleship off the coast of Lebanon was meant to be a serious warning to Hezbollah not to attack Israel from the north, it failed. Hezbollah has been judicious in its strikes. They are not enough to provoke a strong military response from Israel, but enough to force Israel to evacuate thousands of citizens. (Why does no one talk about Israeli evacuees from both north and south? They number in the hundreds of thousands.) Giving Hezbollah confidence in its position, the administration warned Israel about “overreacting.”

Moreover, Hamas was only taking its cue from its patron when it came to hostage-taking. The Biden administration encouraged this by giving Iran $6 billion for five American hostages. Hamas dragged some 240 civilians over the border to Gaza—including babies and elderly people—and the U.S. has just brokered a trade for some, not all, of them in exchange for the ceasefire Hamas desperately needs. And just when the Biden administration was pushing Israel to accept Hamas’s terms, it offered Iran another $10 billion

Who is surprised, then, that the Houthis grabbed a ship with partial Israeli ownership—but no Israelis on board—and are demanding a ransom payment?

Rewarding Iran while its proxies attack our ally Israel as well as our own troops is the definition of playing both sides.

Biden, in fact, spent most of his ostensibly pro-Israel op-ed laying out his vision of a “two-state solution,” which appears to be an independent “Palestine” ruled by the corrupt, antisemitic, terror-supporting Palestinian Authority. Israel will not even be allowed to maintain security control.

Again playing both sides, Biden noted, “I also advised Israelis not to let their pain and anger mislead them into making the mistakes we ourselves have made in the past.”

Israel’s pain and anger will be channeled as the government of Israel deems necessary and within the bounds of international law.

For the U.S. to remain a good and sincere ally of Israel, it would be wise not to let American hubris mislead Washington “into mistakes we ourselves have made in the past.” Among those mistakes were paying off Iran and ignoring its evil manipulations across the region.

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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