Photo Credit: Wiki: Vincent Aderente – U.S. Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs
The wayward pier-utility boat (with the Army landing craft nearby), beached off Ashdod, Israel on 25 May 2024. Via Twitter. Overlay: elements of a U.S. Army recruiting poster from World War I, patriotically invoking the call of Mistress Columbia

This day has been visible on the horizon since Israel went into Rafah to finish off Hamas, in the teeth of opposition from the Biden administration.

The New York Times, which has been sturdily retailing Team Biden’s narrative on the U.S. pier in Gaza, reported on 18 June 2024 that signs now point to the pier being dismantled and hauled away sometime in July.  “Military officials” are reportedly telling aid organizations to expect such a timeline.


The original hope was to keep the pier in operation until at least September (if necessary), when autumn weather and sea conditions would become increasingly adverse.  But NYT is now giving it the sunset-of-expectations treatment, slinging around the words “failing” and “failure” to get us all in the right frame of mind.

Says the Times:  “In the month since it was attached to the shoreline, the pier has been in service only about 10 days. The rest of the time, it was being repaired after rough seas broke it apart, detached to avoid further damage or paused because of security concerns.”

Yes.  It was a dumb idea to begin with.  It has performed pretty much as sensible experts expected.

But Biden never put it in to perform its nominal mission.  The pier has been there to act as a flying wedge for the Biden administration’s goal of internationalizing post-combat Gaza  and preventing Israel from assuming charge of arrangements there.  As discussed on many previous occasions, Biden’s planners wanted to put down stakes in post-combat Gaza by invoking the problem of humanitarian aid and the need for security for it.  This would keep a remnant of the status quo ante in place, to be worked with in a campaign to present Israel with a “Palestinian state” as a fait accompli.

The pier was the “humanitarian aid/international intervention” instrument for that.

The problem is that achieving that goal for Gaza and a peremptory Palestinian state depended on Hamas still having an armed, viable presence in Gaza.

And that’s what Israel has been busy removing.

It’s working.  At this point, it’s pretty close to a mop-up operation.  That’s why Hezbollah has ramped up throwing fire from the north, and why Israel can credibly and legitimately be preparing to turn and address that problem.

Here’s my summary at the separate forum I sometimes quote from:

Impeccable timing.  Someone in Biden’s behind-the-scenes team can see the writing on the wall.  Israel’s success in Rafah, though incomplete still, is the key to this.

The US effort seems to have largely shifted at this point to deterring Israel in Lebanon.   From where I sit, that’s because the tide has turned already in Gaza (it’s going out for Hamas), and the pier is becoming more of a liability than anything else.  Recall that the IDF has been providing security for the pier against threats from inside Gaza, as well as general security for aid movements (to the extent there have been any) once the goods get off the pier.  With that accommodation, Israel was buying latitude for its own policy of eradicating Hamas in Gaza.  The pier security provided was a factor of dependence for the US, because it made the pier operation politically viable back home.  It meant no US boots on the ground.  Biden needed Israel; Israel could buy him off for some limited but important purposes by meeting that need.

Israel’s increasing success in the main effort in Gaza removes incentive for Israel to keep supporting the pier operation.  The job isn’t entirely done yet, but an effectively Hamas-free Gaza, where the back of resistance to Israeli administration and a free flow of aid is broken, is on the horizon.  The momentum of the change in facts on the ground is already there. (That’s why so many are so sour and P.O.’ed right now.  The geopolitical earthquake in Gaza has already started, and the invested parties can see that. Gaza isn’t going back to the status quo ante.  And Israel hasn’t been shouldered aside in the post-combat settlement project.  All the P.O.’ed parties have failed.)

It’s foreseeable that there will be no politically legitimizable “need” for the pier in the near future.  I tweeted several days ago on the point that the facts on the ground in Gaza would change before the political conventions in the US later this summer, and Team Biden would be looking for a new narrative.  It looks as if it will focus on Lebanon (though there are still miles to go before the conventions.  It might well include Lebanon and J&S).  The pier can’t perform its intended function at this point. It can’t triumph over Israel in terms of offering the way ahead for a multinational post-combat peacemaking framework, predicated on “humanitarian aid.”  That’s already a dead letter, from where I sit.  There will be some kind of US-brokered coalition effort, but it won’t be able to preempt Israel in Gaza, as Biden hoped to do with the pier.  It will have to gain Israel’s agreement.

The pier was never about aid.  Aid was the excuse; the actual motive was political, and it was NOT the Samantha Power R2P urge.  It was the intent to jack post-combat Gaza out from under Israel.

It’s somewhat ironic that this move by the Biden administration came less than a week after a pair of think-tank analysts published an op-ed at The Hill outlining the potential of the Gaza pier for precisely what Team Biden wanted to accomplish with it.

If you’ve been reading along with TOC, you’ve been keeping up with that potential for months (here as well), cobbling together indicators from Team Biden’s actions and the words of its crack squad of “leakers.”  But the 12 June opinion piece at The Hill articulated the possibilities formally, and with the imprimatur of think-tank provenance.

From another separate-forum contribution (mine):

A few selections [i.e., from the Hill piece]:

“The pier is framed as temporary and technical, but its establishment can have longer-term implications, that will also support reconstruction in Gaza. It provides opportunities, which If leveraged correctly can jumpstart the de-facto shaping of new realities. The operationalization of the pier, which is already facing challenges in its first days, is a testing ground for possible post-war security and administrative arrangements. It gives early indications of the type of problems that need to be solved.”

“The implementation of this project could assist a renewal of Palestinian governance in the Gaza Strip, by providing roles and responsibilities to non-Hamas Palestinian actors, including the Palestinian Authority. These could be gradually expanded in support of an eventual renewed unification between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.”

“The pier and its operationalization already grant concrete roles to Cyprus, the base for the sea corridor to Gaza, and the United Arab Emirates, a major provider of aid delivered. This provides a concrete example of a constructive European and Gulf involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian issue at a time when countries seek meaningful ways to contribute.”

“Should the temporary pier create a permanent shipping route, taking into account Israeli security concerns and well-coordinated with the Palestinian Authority, it will put an end to the Israeli naval blockade over Gaza that has been in place since the 2007 Hamas takeover. The pier can also evolve into a seaport in Gaza Strip, which has been discussed since the early 1990s and is part of recent plans for Gaza’s future.”

“The pier is a new fact on the ground. Its establishment may not be a game-changer, but it opens longer-term opportunities. It could be one of several elements needed to produce legitimate governing authorities as a bridge to the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.”

The writers basically catch up with [TOC] writings since March (most recently here):

It’s interesting that with all the citations they could have made of Biden administration intent, which already comports nicely with their propositions, they really haven’t made any.

A tentative conclusion from this timeline is that Team Biden decided between 12 June and 18 June to cut bait with the pier and move on to Plan B.  It’s possible that the pier will clear out of Dodge even earlier than previewed, now that the updated intent has been registered.  Weather is likely to continue providing a ready pretext.  But in fact, the spell of the pier as a political threat to Israel’s security interests in Gaza has been broken, with the 18 June disclosure.  The signal is sent – Biden’s backing off on the pier – and he can’t play an already-revealed hand at this point.

There are obviously big chunks of unfinished business, and rocky shoals to navigate in the coming weeks.  Something will happen with Hezbollah in the north, where Biden’s negotiators are trying to stave off an IDF campaign.  The possibility that Iran will add to the crisis for Israel can never be wished away.  That can be done in more than one way; I’m hopeful that Assad and Russia will keep it from overtly or significantly involving Syria, but Syria could still be a staging point or way point, as could Iraq.

This is an exceptionally bad time for the U.S. to not have a carrier strike group ready to deploy and take over for USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69), which has been in CENTCOM (including occasional passages in EUCOM) for over eight months.  The strike group’s total deployment time is nine months now, and the next deployer, USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) won’t be ready to deploy until October or November.

The inherent gap here – if everyone stayed on a typical schedule – has been previewed for (literally) years, because that’s how the elephant’s dance of carrier deployments works.  But gaps, however foreseen, can be inconvenient, and this one is confoundedly so.  Ike may just have to remain in CENTCOM until Truman can set out, although anyone who’s been on deployment knows the flight deck is probably in need of some serious maintenance by now, and the air wing is wearing out.

There are two carriers in the South China Sea at the moment.  But Southeast Asia is the last place we can short on carriers.  The options aren’t good; the timing is bad.

Meanwhile, the Republican Convention is coming up 15-18 July in Milwaukee, and the Democrats will follow in Chicago 19-22 August.  Aside from the rampant rumors of political shenanigans attending both conventions, there’s the looming concern of protests – which actually may go especially hard on the DNC.  It’s anyone’s guess exactly how things might unfold in Chicago, but given the relentless anti-Israel protest theme throughout the spring, and the likelihood that Hamas will be out of the picture (a cause of chagrin) but Hezbollah and a new-front campaign on Israel’s northern border will be in it, protests could be a real political and security problem.

The Democrats will want to have a narrative in place to tide over the loss of the Hamas option.  The Netanyahu government will want to have momentum going for the prime minister’s speech to Congress on 24 July – which falls after the RNC.  We can imagine Netanyahu will meet with Donald Trump while he’s in the U.S.  We know Congress is planning a bipartisan delegation to Israel before the speech, which we can see as positive without all having to like each other.

All while the Biden administration continues to hold up delivery of the JDAM guidance kits and heavier-weight bombs needed for an Israeli interdiction campaign against Hezbollah’s infrastructure in Lebanon.  Or, in extremis, against threats originating from Iran.

Fasten those seat belts.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

{Reposted from the author’s site}


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