President Biden’s initial reaction to October 7 seemed focused, unequivocal and right on point. In his speech to the nation from the White House three days later he didn’t mince any words about Israel’s having an undiluted right to defend itself and the complete backing of the United States in that effort. We fear though that he has begun to waffle – and with dangerous implications for how the U.S. commitment to Israel will be perceived in the Arab world.
So, early on, the President said, “Like every nation in the world, Israel has the right to respond – indeed has a duty to respond – to the vicious [Oct.7] attacks…. I just got off of the phone with … Prime Minister Netanyahu and I told him if the United States experienced what Israel is experiencing, our response would be swift, decisive, and overwhelming.”
He went on to say, “We also discussed how democracies like Israel and the United States are stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law. [That is,] terrorists purposefully target civilians, kill them. We uphold the laws of war – the law of war. It matters. There’s a difference.”
But the President has now taken to baselessly lecturing Israel on the international law requirements of not targeting Palestinian civilians, neither militarily nor by discontinuing providing Gazans with food and fuel as was the case before Oct. 7.
On Sunday, in another phone conversation, according to a White House readout of the call, Mr. Biden told Mr. Netanyahu that Israel must “immediately and significantly” increase the amount of humanitarian aid entering the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. He also “reiterated” to the prime minister that, “Israel has every right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terrorists and underscored the need to do so in a manner consistent with international law that prioritizes the protection of civilians.”
Further, just hours earlier, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan stressed the need for the Israel army “to make every possible effort to distinguish between terrorists and Palestinian civilians during the ground operation in Gaza.” He went on to say, somewhat incongruously, we think, that although “Hamas is making life extremely difficult for Israel by taking civilians as human shields and putting their rocket infrastructure and terrorist infrastructure among civilians,” “that creates an added burden for Israel, but it does not lessen Israel’s responsibility under international humanitarian law to distinguish between terrorists and civilians and protect the lives of innocent people.”
We wonder, though, exactly when, since Oct. 7 has it been independently determined that Israel has intentionally pursued civilians or that the notion that it does, is not anything but yet another example of Hamas slipshod surmise or outright misrepresentation. Wasn’t that the takeaway from that false Hamas claim that a premeditated Israeli air strike caused the Oct. 17 blast at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City?
To the same effect is the Biden admonition that Israel had an obligation to send supplies to Gazan civilians. We know of no other modern wartime situation when the side that was attacked was expected to feed the other side’s civilian population which is what Israel has argued. But there is even more reason to reject the Biden caution to Israel.
Of course, it would have taken no great leap of logic to have assumed that Hamas would stockpile all the food, water and fuel it could get its hands on in order to fight their war against Israel. So why in Heaven’s name would the President urge Israel to subsidize an enemy seeking its destruction. So, the Biden wish that Israel send more supplies to Gaza is absurd on its face. Yet, in truth, we don’t have to rely only on a logical assumption.
The New York Times reports that Arab and Western officials say there is substance to Israeli claims of Hamas stockpiling supplies, including desperately needed food and fuel. Hamas, they say has spent years amassing stores of virtually everything needed for a drawn out war with Israel.
According to these sources, Hamas has hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel for vehicles and rockets and stockpiles of food, water and medicine, the very same supplies that President Biden wants Israel to ship to Gaza!
Why would President Biden suggest to the world that Israel had to be reminded that it shouldn’t target civilians? Why would he suggest that Israel would be derelict in its duties if it allowed a “humanitarian crisis” to develop in Gaza when Hamas has the wherewithal to sustain its civilian population. And all of this while he is providing mightily for Israel’s military needs and G-d-willing will continue to do so.
We don’t know for sure what the answers to these and the other questions raised. But we sense that it has something to do with maintaining relations with the Arab world in the midst of steadily rising Palestinian casualties.
Yet, we Jews find ourselves living in a time when there are myriad antisemitic demonstrations popping up across the globe; when American campuses are regularly erupting with anti-Jewish rallies; when Jewish students have been forced to barricade themselves in bathrooms to protect themselves from marauding Palestinian partisans; and when Muslim rioters roam airport terminals seeking to accost arriving Jewish passengers. It is hardly the time for the President of the United States to feed the notion of the stereotypical predator Jew whatever else he does.