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If Biden Stops Israel Too Soon, Hamas Will Know it Can Get Away With Murder

Published: (Updated: ) in Jewish News by .

If Hamas realizes that the international community (or at least the United States) will not be its savior if it chooses aggression, its leaders might decide to be more cautious.

The post If Biden Stops Israel Too Soon, Hamas Will Know it Can Get Away With Murder appeared first on Jewish Journal.

I was too critical of the Biden administration. Last week, I suggested that the administration is failing a test by Hamas, and isn’t giving Israel enough leeway as it attempts to rein in the terror organization and deter it from future attacks. That was premature. Biden, to his credit, did not rush to act. After speaking with Netanyahu, he instructed his diplomats to postpone a Security Council meeting, and thus gave Israel more time to act.

He should get credit for it, because Biden – like all politicians – does not operate in a vacuum. He is President of the United States but also the leader of the Democratic Party. And his party is split over Israel. He “doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo”, wrote Alex Ward in Vox. What memo? The one concerning “greater willingness to criticize Israel and speak up in defense of the rights of Palestinians”. And if you, the reader, also didn’t get the memo, you can get it here, in an op-ed in The New York Times by Biden’s former rival and current ally Bernie Sanders. “Let’s be clear. No one is arguing that Israel, or any government, does not have the right to self-defense or to protect its people”, writes Sanders. But then he makes this exact argument: “In this moment of crisis, the United States should be urging an immediate cease-fire,” Sanders writes, not realizing (or maybe realizing and not caring) that a cease-fire would hand a victory to Hamas, and that a Hamas victory is the way to deny Israel the ability to defend itself.

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Christian Whiton, writing in The National Interest, makes a similar point in an article that doesn’t give Biden much credit but does get the larger picture much better than Sanders does. “Biden officials have implied moral equivalence between the Israelis and Palestinians by only vaguely saying Israel has a right to defend itself and urging de-escalation rather than victory over the Islamist aggressors”, he writes. Again, that might be too harsh. With due respect to “officials,” when it comes to making policy on matters as sensitive as this one, the Oval Office is usually the only place that counts. Thus far, Biden has not demanded a de-escalation. The position the US will present at the meeting of the Security Council will give us a hint as to what the administration hopes to achieve in the region in the coming days.

As I wrote a few days ago, this is a test. Hamas is testing Biden – a test whose result will have huge impact on Hamas policies in the next four years. If the organization gets the impression that it can get away with murder, more violence is to be expected. If Hamas realizes that the international community (or at least the United States) will not be its savior if it chooses aggression, its leaders might decide to be more cautious. Note that two of the three main clashes between Israel and Hamas took place when President Obama was in power. Was he the reason for the escalation? Blaming Obama wouldn’t be fair. Was he a contributing factor? That’s more plausible. When the enemy knows that Israel could not unleash its full resources against the aggressor, this surely impacts its calculus as to whether war is advisable at a certain time.

Hamas is testing Biden – a test whose result will have huge impact on Hamas policies in the next four years. If the organization gets the impression that it can get away with murder, more violence is to be expected.

The violent inflammation caught Israel by surprise. It also caught the U.S. by surprise. The Biden administration had to develop its response to a crisis in haste, based on general principles, on experience and on sentiments. Biden and his team do not have much faith in Netanyahu. But they do have faith in some of his generals and his Defense Secretary, Benny Gantz. An American official hinted a few days ago that he was convinced by Israel’s security establishment that the eruption is not a political ploy by Netanyahu. Now, Israel’s security chiefs – the people the Americans trust – tell their counterparts that they still need more time. But diplomatic and political considerations trump military preferences not only in Israel – they also influence American policy makers, such as Biden. His military advisors agree with their Israeli colleagues. His diplomatic advisors emphasize the impatience of the international community and the Arab world. His political advisors warn that supporting Israel could cost him support within his own party. Biden is in a bind. As Israel and Hamas must face their greater dilemmas, he has to face his own, smaller dilemma, while the world, and especially Hamas, is watching.

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Shmuel Rosner is an Israeli columnist, editor, and researcher. He is the editor of the research and data-journalism website themadad.com and is the political editor of the Jewish Journal.

The post If Biden Stops Israel Too Soon, Hamas Will Know it Can Get Away With Murder appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal https://jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain/336675/if-biden-stops-israel-too-soon-hamas-will-know-it-can-get-away-with-murder/

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