Biden’s creeping betrayal of Israel

Sacrificing an ally to appease the activist class? That’s low, Joe.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics USA World

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‘Just call for a ceasefire…’ It was the offhand nature of Joe Biden’s haughty instruction to Israel this week, the insouciance of it, that felt most jarring. Just call for a ceasefire, he told ‘the Israelis’, like it was no big deal. Like it’s an easy thing to do to lay down arms against an army of racist terrorists that has already slain a thousand of your citizens and promises to slay thousands more. Like it’s a simple decision to pause a war for your very survival against a medieval movement that was founded with the express intention of wiping you from the face of the Earth. ‘Relax, stop fighting, it will be fine’, Biden was essentially saying, taking his geopolitical idiocy to dizzying new heights.

It was in an interview with Spanish-language network Univision that he issued his breezy decree to Israel. It was recorded last Wednesday but it only aired this week. As you might expect, it’s caused a storm. What I want, said the puffed-up president, is for ‘the Israelis to just call for a ceasefire… for the next six, eight weeks’. That way, more ‘food and medicine’ can get into Gaza, he said. He slammed Benjamin Netanyahu. ‘I think what he’s doing is a mistake. I don’t agree with his approach’, said our armchair general. Imagine the quantity of brass neck it requires for the leader of a nation that has waged bloody war after bloody war these past 20 years to lecture Israel about its fight against an enemy that poses a very real existential threat.

There was the pungent whiff of hypocrisy to Biden’s sermonising. He fumed about the accidental killing of those seven aid workers in an Israeli airstrike. It was ‘outrageous’, he said, how the aid workers’ vehicles were ‘hit by drones and taken out on a highway’. It was indeed awful. But Biden of all people ought to know that grave errors happen in the violent maelstrom of war. His own military forces accidentally killed hundreds of civilians and allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. In one especially dreadful incident, American bombs laid waste to 37 souls at an Afghan wedding party in late 2008. Twenty-three of the dead were kids. ‘Stop killing Afghan civilians’, the then president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, pleaded with the freshly elected Barack Obama. And who was Obama’s vice-president in that era of friendly fire horror? Biden.

Of course everyone wants more aid to get to the people of Gaza. But you don’t need to be Sun Tzu to recognise that there are serious risks for Israel in calling an eight-week ceasefire. Hamas has promised more pogroms. ‘We will do this again and again… there will be a second, a third, a fourth’, said one leading figure in the aftermath of 7 October. Does Israel down weapons and potentially let this murderous movement regroup and rearm? Or does it carry on fighting until its war aim of Hamas’s destruction has been achieved? These are profound questions, the answers to which will likely impact Israel’s very existence. ‘Just call for a ceasefire’ is the cheap, shallow rambling of an out-of-touch old president who’s luckily never known the threat of a neo-fascist army on his doorstep.

This is the luxuriant moralism of the Israel critic. Wars for survival are mercifully a distant memory for us in the West. Only the very old among us were called upon to fight to the last against the forces of barbarism, in Europe 80 years ago. Israel is not so fortunate. It faces on its southern border a terror army that has sworn itself to the eradication of the Jewish State. A terror army that gave brute voice to its genocidal urges with its pogrom of 7 October. A terror army that hides among the wretched citizens of Gaza in order that the innocent might shield the guilty from the consequences of the war they started. For Westerners who enjoy the historic privilege of facing no imminent existential threat to pontificate to a nation that does is nothing short of nauseating. The luxury of peace has blinded us to the occasional necessity of war.

Biden’s advisers, as is so often the case, have had to clarify his remarks. Nothing he said should be taken as a deviation from White House policy, an official said, which remains the bringing about of an ‘immediate ceasefire for at least six weeks as part of a hostage deal’. And yet it is undeniably striking, as the New York Post notes, that Biden mentioned no conditions in his demand that Israel ‘just call for a ceasefire’. He didn’t ‘demand the release of the estimated 134 hostages, including five US citizens, being held by Hamas in Gaza’. Failing to mention five of your own people who are still languishing in the captivity of an anti-Semitic army is surely more than an oversight. More than just another senior moment on Biden’s part. More broadly, it speaks to a culture of moral fatigue, even moral cowardice, in the White House. It speaks to Washington’s moral abandonment, if not yet its military abandonment, of an ally in its greatest ever hour of need.

It increasingly feels as though the Biden administration is sacrificing Israel at the altar of electoral calculation. Worried about losing the support of sections of the Arab-American community, and of the noisy activists of the graduate class for whom hating Israel has become a feverish obsession, the White House is distancing itself ever further from Israel’s war. This is a suicidally short-termist approach. A majority of American voters continue to back Israel in its efforts to crush the terrorists that attacked it on 7 October. A recent New York Times / Sienna poll found that 40 per cent of voters support Israel and 24 per cent support the Palestinians. The remaining voters either sympathised equally with both (15 per cent) or said they were unsure (21 per cent).

Strikingly, the poll found that the educated elites are more likely than working-class voters to stand against Israel. Among Americans with a bachelor’s degree, 38 per cent take Israel’s side in the current war and 33 per cent take the Palestinian side. Among voters with no bachelor’s degree, an extraordinary 46 per cent back Israel and just 17 per cent back the Palestinains. This shows, surely, that handwringing over Israel is largely the obsessive pursuit of time-rich elites with virtue to signal, and will rarely be found among working communities with bills to worry about.

Why is Biden seemingly so determined to win the votes of the fashionably angry upper-middle class, many of whom won’t be happy with any Israel policy that doesn’t involve the complete cut-off of military and financial aid to that uppity little state? What about the more reasonable working-class vote, many of whom clearly understand that when your very nationhood is threatened by violent extremists, you have no choice but to stand up for yourself? Biden appears to be isolating Israel on the world stage in order to appease the activist class, in order to placate the Israelophobes in his party’s more radical quarters. To put the feelings of the professionally outraged ahead of America’s own keen geopolitical interest in supporting Israel’s war against the Iranian proxies that attacked it on 7 October is unhinged. It speaks to how clueless America’s ruling class has become. How incapable it now is of coolly determining and pursuing the national interest. How far it has drifted from the world of realpolitik into the universe of performative virtue.

So in fact, there’s more to Biden’s creeping betrayal of Israel than electoral calculation. It feels like what we’re really witnessing is the moral exhaustion of the West. In the six months since Hamas’s slaughter of the Jews we have seen our institutions fall one by one to the temptations of Israelophobia, or at least Israel scepticism. First was the universities, then the liberal media machine, and now it’s the political class itself. Fundamentally, their turn against Israel following the worst assault on its people in decades signals their own moral uncertainty, their lack of patriotic fervour, their dearth of belief in the very thing Israel is standing up for: civilisational values against the demented bigotries of those who loathe civilisation. 7 October posed a profound question to us all: will you stand with democracy against barbarism? Far too many in the West have said No. Not really. Not for long. Biden needs to think long and hard before joining these ranks of the cowardly and unenlightened who have so catastrophically failed the moral test of 7 October.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics USA World


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