Joe Biden is appeasing Hamas

His roadmap to a ceasefire is a gift to the terror group and its Iranian backers.

Daniel Ben-Ami

Topics Politics USA World

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Much of the diplomacy around the Israel-Hamas war has had a Kafkaesaque quality. A case in point was US president Joe Biden’s announcement last week that, following intensive talks, ‘Israel has offered a comprehensive new proposal’ for ‘a roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages’. The main elements of this proposed three-phase roadmap are: a complete ceasefire including the release of some hostages, a permanent end to hostilities and a major reconstruction plan for Gaza.

Not all of the details have been released yet, so it is only possible to draw a tentative assessment of the proposal. Still, anyone listening carefully should have done a double take. Why was the American president apparently launching an Israeli proposal? Later on, Biden acknowledged that ‘there are those in Israel who will not agree with this plan and will call for the war to continue indefinitely’. However, he did not spell out who he was referring to. No doubt this would include some ministers on the far right of Israel’s ruling coalition, including Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, but Biden seemed to be thinking beyond that group.

Deepening the mystery still further, there appeared to be some uncertainty over whether Israel would accept the plan at all – which would be strange, considering that it was presented as Israel’s idea. Although Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not explicitly rejected the proposal, he has implied he is not fully behind it. According to a statement from his office at the weekend: ‘Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: The destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.’ This is fundamentally different from the Biden roadmap, which, reading between the lines, would leave Hamas damaged, but intact.

None of this makes sense according to the conventional narrative of US-Israeli relations. Biden is usually talked about in the media as a staunch friend of Israel who supports its fight against Hamas, whatever it takes. But this has long been a misleading view.

Although few seem to have realised it, America has been increasingly ambivalent about its support for Israel in recent decades. The high point of the relationship was in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, relations have become steadily more strained. Back in 2008, Mick Hume noted on spiked how America tried to constrain Israel as far back as the 1991 Gulf War. America has not ditched Israel completely, but it is not a staunch ally, either. Today, America presents itself, at most, as a ‘moderating’ influence on Israel.

What’s more, the Biden administration is increasingly hostile to Netanyahu. It has become traditional for American presidents to invite new Israeli prime ministers to the White House. The current Israeli government was elected in December 2022, but Biden declined to meet Netanyahu for nine months. They eventually met in September 2023, but not at the White House. The White House did, however, invite Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s three-man war cabinet, to visit the White House in March. In diplomatic terms, this all amounts to a carefully calculated snub. Gantz increasingly looks like Biden’s preferred replacement as the Israeli prime minister.

While the Americans are increasingly sceptical of the war against Hamas, Israelis are not. According to a recent survey by Pew, 39 per cent of Israelis say Israel’s military response to Hamas has been about right, while 34 per cent say it has not gone far enough. This makes perfect sense. Hamas slaughtered about 1,200 people on 7 October, mostly Israelis, and took more than 250 people hostage. It has also pledged to repeat the attack ‘time and again’. This is all completely in line with Hamas’s stated goal of destroying Israel, as set out in its 1988 covenant.

America’s goals in the Middle East are now often at odds with Israel’s. As I have previously argued on spiked, the US’s broad regional objective is to appease Iran. That is because, in the view of the Biden administration, this will allow America to ‘pivot’ to East Asia and to focus on containing what it sees as its main threat – namely, China. No doubt Biden’s chastisements of Israel also find some favour among the anti-Israel left, which makes up a large contingent in Biden’s Democratic Party.

From the start of the current round of conflict, the Biden administration has carefully refrained from linking Hamas and Iran, even though it is abundantly clear that Iran backed the 7 October attack. America was also intent on stopping Israel hitting the Iran-aligned Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, even though it was also threatening to destroy Israel.

There are numerous other such examples of America trying to limit Israel’s actions over the past eight months. These include its abstention in March on a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, its public statement last month that Israel should not enter Rafah and last month’s announcement on pausing the shipment of certain weapons to Israel.

These developments tend to be presented as evidence of Biden’s concern for Gaza’s civilian population. However, they are better seen as evidence that the White House does not want Hamas to be completely destroyed, as this would be inimical to its broader goal of keeping up relations with Iran.

When it comes to Rafah, it is clear that Hamas cannot be defeated without Israel taking the fight to the city. It is currently home to the largest remaining concentration of Hamas forces. Its strategic position on the Egyptian border makes it an ideal place for smuggling in weapons and people. As a result, Rafah could easily provide the base for Hamas to regain control over the Gaza Strip. Biden is surely aware of all this, yet he still insists there can be no major invasion of Rafah.

The Biden administration may well succeed in imposing a ceasefire. But this will not lead to a ‘permanent end to hostilities’ in Gaza. After all, there can be no genuine peace until Hamas, with its declared aim of destroying Israel and slaughtering its citizens, is eliminated. By abandoning Israel, America is now standing in the way of any durable peace.

Daniel Ben-Ami is an author and journalist. He runs the website Radicalism of Fools, dedicated to rethinking anti-Semitism. Follow him on X: @danielbenami

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics USA World


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