The Biden administration’s reaction to Saturday’s hostage rescues – dubbed “Operation Arnon” in honor of a slain IDF officer involved in the rescue – is very instructive. In the months since Oct. 7, President Biden has often publicly berated his erstwhile best friend Israel, and even held back some expected military aid and threatened worse, over the unverified, extravagant number of collateral Palestinian civilian casualties asserted by Hamas to have been caused by Israeli forces targeting combatants and civilians “indiscriminately” in Gaza.

Israeli explanations that the numbers were inflated and Hamas intentionally embedded terrorists in civilian populations were largely dismissed as anecdotal and unproven. Yet in the U.S. response to the weekend operation and the claim by the same Hamas sources that there were hundreds of civilian Palestinian deaths and casualties, the issue went unremarked.


Thus, speaking at a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Biden said he joined the French leader in welcoming the return of the hostages and vowed, “We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached.” But whereas Macron noted and was critical of the alleged civilian deaths, Biden was silent on the issue.

Significant also, in separate remarks, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan went even further. He praised the “daring” mission by the IDF: “The United States is supporting all efforts to secure the release of hostages still held by Hamas, including American citizens.” And we think the “all efforts” phrasing was no accident, especially coming after the rescue.

Why would President Biden now be amenable to a change in attitude? Why would he be at long last ready to acknowledge that civilian casualties are an unfortunate but unavoidable feature of war as Israel claimed all along?

For one thing, distancing himself from Israel has not worked out all that well for him. He is now seriously threatened with a tectonic shift in Jewish community support for Democrats over the daylight he created between the U.S. and Israel. Nor has he drawn anywhere near the support from Arab-American voters as he envisioned would be forthcoming for distancing the U.S. from Israel.

He has also not been able to significantly stanch the activist demonstrations against his earlier robust support for Israel which he had feared would continue and lead right up to the Democratic convention in mid-August in Chicago. He was said to have dreaded a reprise of the anti-Vietnam war protests that destroyed Hubert Humphrey’s candidacy in the Democratic convention of 1968, also in Chicago.

The key may lie in the context in which the rescue operation itself took place. As The Jewish Press and others had predicted would be the case, the slow, drip-drip of estrangement between the two old friends signaled to Hamas that there would come a point when civilian casualties would cause the U.S. to pull the support plug on Israel and not allow it to finish the job of eliminating Hamas. So, Hamas began leveraging their hostage-related demands for an early and permanent ceasefire that would leave them in power in Gaza.

A similar message was received by Hezbollah, which was relatively restrained in the days following Oct. 7 when the U.S. was fulsome in its support for Israel. The U.S. even dispatched aircraft carriers and other warships to the Middle East to underscore the point. That is, until Hezbollah soon realized that heavy civilian casualties would soon upend that American calculus as to them as well. Although they are still not technically at war with Israel, Hezbollah now regularly fires increasingly larger numbers of rockets at Israel and seems to be close to war with Israel.

Sadly, the Biden policy of making Palestinian civilians concern number one has also tended to remove any incentive for Hamas to release the Oct. 7 hostages.

So, it undoubtedly must have occurred to the Biden team that inasmuch as their Middle East policy had plainly failed and was likely even encouraging military action against Israel that might lead to a regional war, and was otherwise causing harm as well, the time seemed ripe for a reassessment. And this notion was fueled by the facts surrounding Operation Arnon which served to shatter the Biden assumptions that Israel was able to surgically confront Hamas with minimal harm to Palestinian civilians but was refusing to take the precautions necessary to do so.

However, this was a myth that could no longer be sustained. Indeed, the presence of Hamas terrorists amongst Palestinian civilians and Oct.7 hostages were there for all to see. Indeed, for President Biden to continue the estrangement from Israel he would have to declare the goal of the elimination of Hamas as being off limits out of a fear of its impact on civilians. Yet he has consistently maintained he fully shared Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas.

And, of course, it would encourage Hamas’ use of human shields and give Hamas veto power over what steps Israel could take in its efforts to defend itself. We hope President Biden gets where his policies have brought us and indeed, seizes the moment and reverts to his initial pro-Israel stance. Only the expectation of full and durable U.S. support for Israel can save us from the consequences of those policies. Hopefully President Biden is seizing the moment.

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleParshas Naso
Next articleWhere Am I: Ruth in the Fields