Yoel Bin-Nun

A faltering war – who is at fault?

Despite the American bear hug, the US's regional interests diverge from those of Israel – and they entail keeping Hamas in power
US President Joe Biden gives remarks to the press in Tel Aviv at the end of his wartime visit to Israel on October 18, 2023. (Screen capture/YouTube)
US President Joe Biden gives remarks to the press in Tel Aviv at the end of his wartime visit to Israel on October 18, 2023. (Screen capture/YouTube)

As the war against Hamas continues to falter, the deep-seated distrust towards the Israeli government — and, since the outbreak of the conflict, also towards the army — has everyone pointing fingers at those they deem responsible, the prime minister on one side, chief of staff on the other.

From the outset of the war, my primary blame lies with American President Joe Biden. Arriving in Israel during the first week of the conflict, Biden offered a “bear hug” and swiftly assumed control over the campaign in Gaza, Rafah, the north, and against Iran.

Regrettably, he succeeded. Biden’s main objective is to prevent a regional war and reach an agreement with northern adversaries for a partial ‘withdrawal’ in southern Lebanon and a temporary “ceasefire.” However, the primary demand of our enemies — both in the north and the south — is a complete end to the war in Gaza-Rafah and a total withdrawal of the IDF.

In the south, Biden took it upon himself to address the threat of the Houthis from Yemen and to prevent, by all means, the collapse of Hamas in Gaza-Rafah under the guise of preparing for “the day after.” Initially, I wasn’t sure if the White House understood they were saving Hamas. I thought that perhaps the Americans (especially Democrats) didn’t grasp the complexities of the Middle East. But last week, I read Biden’s assertion that Hamas, in its current state, would not be capable of carrying out another attack like the one on Saturday. It became clear that he was aligning with Egypt and Qatar to prevent Hamas from collapsing.

All the demands for “humanitarian aid” disguise the main demand from Israel: to prevent an Israeli takeover of the Rafah tunnels, through which weapons are smuggled to Hamas. The Israeli government is attempting to navigate the American “embrace,” but the American president has invited Benny Gantz to visit, and Netanyahu, despite all his maneuvers, has not been able to leverage the IDF for a decisive military victory. The IDF is indeed operating in eastern Rafah, but blowing up one or two tunnels out of the dozens that are used for smuggling weapons and military equipment to Hamas — with the help of Sinai’s desert tribes and under the Egyptian fog — does not constitute victory. This especially true when the IDF is thinning its forces, bowing to American demands.

Therefore, it is not the chief of staff’s fault, nor the prime minister’s, but that of American President Joe Biden and his Democratic Party. All the serious consequences expected in the future, particularly in the war against Iran via Lebanon, rest squarely on Biden’s shoulders.

Why is Israel so dependent on America?

The main reason for Israel’s dependency on America is not just military aid, but political support. Without the American “veto” in the Security Council, Israel could face a global diplomatic assault far more severe than the current conflict. This political shield is the primary reason for the precarious behavior of the Israeli government and the IDF.

What should have been done, ideally?

First and foremost, Israel should reject any American “bear hug” and threaten dramatic actions:

  1. Immediate Release of Hostages: If all abductees are not released within two or three days, and funding to Hamas is not stopped, Qatar’s oil facilities should be attacked.
  2. Hezbollah Withdrawal: If Hezbollah forces do not withdraw beyond the Litani River, as stipulated in the UN resolution at the end of the Lebanon war, Israel should destroy South Beirut and all Iranian missile depots in Lebanon.
  3. Iranian Threats: If Iran continues to threaten to destroy the “Zionist regime” in Israel and does not halt its nuclear weapons program, Israel should launch a full-scale attack on Iran with the objective of toppling the regime in Tehran.

Realistic suggestions

Unfortunately, I do not see any leader in Israel capable of making such demands and standing behind them seriously while maintaining maximum Israeli unity. As such, I offer somewhat milder suggestions:

  1. Hostages Transfer to Egypt: If all abductees are not transferred to Egypt within two or three days and held there without war crime conditions, Israel will occupy the entire underground system in Rafah and destroy it all.
  2. Hezbollah Attacks: If Hezbollah does not stop firing at us, Israel will attack all Iranian missile installations in Lebanon.
  3. Iranian Intervention: If Iran intervenes and attacks (as it has already done once), Israel will respond with all means at its disposal until the regime in Tehran is overthrown.

I fear this too is too difficult for any Israeli government at this time, but an Israeli position that is less aggressive than the above, combined with American efforts to prevent a regional war while supporting the control of Hamas and Hezbollah in the area, may lead to a much more difficult and serious conflict. With the help of God and the heroism of our soldiers, we will prevail, but the price will be many times heavier than what could be achieved now.

It is time to wake up!

About the Author
Dr. Rabbi Yoel bin Nun is one of the founders of Yeshivat Har Etzion. He received his rabbinic training at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav and his Ph.D. from Hebrew University. In 1986, he established Michlelet Yaakov Herzog for training Jewish Studies teachers, especially in Bible instruction. Between 2000-2006 he served as the Rosh Ha-Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKibbutz HaDati in Ein Tzurim.
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