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Pollak: How Biden Brought Israel to the Brink of Failure

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Hamas declared victory Sunday after Israel withdrew its ground forces from southern Gaza, partly in deference to President Joe Biden’s call for an “immediate ceasefire.” Israel now stands on the precipice of failure in the war.

Israelis are asking, naturally, how this came to pass.

The accidental killing of seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) was the trigger, and some Israelis wonder if they should have emphasized aid for Gaza sooner.

The problem, actually, was that Israel accepted responsibility for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population in the first place, over and above its legal obligation not to target civilians (as Hamas does in both Gaza and Israel).

In a typical war, each side is responsible for its own civilians. The side that can no longer protect its people loses and surrenders. Certainly the aggressor — as Palestinians were in this case — has no right to demand special treatment.

That rule is inverted in Gaza, where anti-Israel activists and left-wing “progressives” have pushed the false idea that Israel is an occupying power. (Israel pulled its soldiers and civilians out in 2005; Hamas took over in a 2007 coup).

The Biden administration, facing protest from Arab- and Muslim-American voters in Michigan, and a revolt by its own “progressive” staff, began pressuring Israel early in the war to assume responsibility for aiding Gaza residents.

Israel accepted that responsibility as the price of continued American support — both at the diplomatic level and the military level. It opened Gaza border crossings to aid trucks — over the objections of some families of Israeli hostages.

As Israel continued to advance, the Biden administration faced increased pressure from the Democratic base. The White House began to talk of a Palestinian state as the outcome of the war, as part of a broader Saudi-Israeli peace.

The idea of a Palestinian state had been an obsession for the Biden administration even before the war, when it reportedly held up a Saudi-Israel deal because it did not include the Palestinians (who are not a Saudi priority).

After the war, a Palestinian state was a non-starter in Israel, which had just been attacked by a self-governing Palestinian territory. But for Biden, it offered a way to placate his critics, and score a foreign policy achievement.

That was when tensions that predated the war reappeared publicly between Biden and Netanyahu. Netanyahu pointed out, correctly, that he himself was not the problem: the majority of Israelis also oppose a Palestinian state.

The White House tried to slow the Israeli war effort — partly out of concern for Palestinian civilians, but also out of concern that if Israel won too quickly, the U.S. would not have leverage to force Israel to accept a Palestinian state.

Effectively, Biden began propping up Hamas to force Israel to accept his vision of the Middle East. The White House warned Israel not to enter Khan Yunis, the major city in southern Gaza where Hamas leaders had been concentrated.

Israel defied Biden and entered Khan Yunis, taking both the U.S. and Hamas by surprise. That led to rapid gains on the ground — and Israeli troops found recently-abandoned tunnels, filled with cash, as Hamas leaders fled to Rafah.

By early February, Rafah — a key strategic point on the Egyptian border — was the last Hamas stronghold. Biden put his foot down, again expressing concern for civilians, but also trying to preserve Hamas as leverage against Israel.

Israel defied Biden again, launching a daring raid that rescued two Israeli hostages from Rafah.

It was then that reports began to appear in the Israeli media that the U.S. was slow-walking the delivery of weapons and ammunition.

Netanyahu took his case to the American public, telling American television that an operation in Rafah would end the war in “weeks,” not “months.”

Israel had its own reasons to be cautious: it wanted to preserve the possibility of a deal to free the remaining 130 or so Israeli hostages, whom Hamas had moved to Rafah to protect its own leadership. But Netanyahu hoped that American leverage could help with a hostage deal while keeping military pressure on Hamas.

Instead, Biden began openly warning that Israel would lose American support if it moved into Rafah. In March, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan — one of the original Russia hoaxers — summoned Israeli aides to talks.

As the Americans forced Israel to delay, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza became more acute — or, at least, became more of a focus in the international media. A battle that could have been over in weeks dragged on for months.

The Biden administration, facing growing domestic pressures, and desperate to save its plan for a Palestinian state, pushed for a ceasefire resolution at the UN, eventually dropping its insistence that a pause be linked to a hostage deal.

That allowed Hamas to back away from compromise, and return to its insistence on a complete ceasefire before more hostages would be released. The U.S. also continued slapping sanctions on Israeli settlers, isolating Israel further.

Meanwhile, Iran’s other proxy, Hezbollah, began stepping up its attacks on northern Israel. Israel could not risk losing arms supplies from the U.S. if it had to face a war with Hezbollah, which is even more dangerous than Hamas.

And so, even before the WCK disaster, Israel was in a difficult, if not impossible, position. It was put there by Biden, who — as former defense secretary Robert Gates once said — has been wrong on every foreign policy issue in his life.

Before the war, Biden had already endangered Israel — first by restoring hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians that Trump had cut, including to the terror-linked United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA).

Hamas launched a war in 2021 — after four years of quiet under Trump. And when Netanyahu won the 2022 election, Biden shunned him and supported protests against Netanyahu’s judicial reform, fueling internal Israeli divisions.

Biden still hopes to pull a Saudi-Israeli deal together. He may succeed, but Israel would have to accept a Palestinian state, and the threat of terror. And there is still the prospect of a nuclear Iran, about which Biden is doing nothing.

At this stage, Israel has three choices.

One: it can press ahead into Rafah, hoping Biden will not follow through with his threats.

Two: it can change governments, hoping Biden is friendlier to someone who is not named Netanyahu.

Three: Israel can wait until the American elections are over, hoping that Trump replaces Biden — or else that Biden, no longer constrained by fear of pro-Hamas voters, will finally help Israel win, as he should have from the start.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now available on Audible. He is also the author of the e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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