Gil Lewinsky

Biden’s Pro Hamas Embargo Forces Israel to Rethink Wargoals

From the days of October 07th, I was astounded, even praiseworthy of US President Joe Biden. First condemning what took place, then sending urgent weapons and diplomatic cover, myself and many here felt that we have been protected by a great shield of friend America.

Half a year later, with anti-Israel protesters storming campuses and the watermelon symbol of Palestine proliferating over social media, we find ourselves in a far different predicament. US President Joe Biden remembers October 07th, but actively at the same time seems to be actively shielding Hamas by withholding military aid, first by a shipment of precision kits for bombs and now a direct threat to embargo arms if Israel enters Rafah. As mentioned by his ambassador to Israel Jack Lew to  Bnei Brak Rabbi Hillel Hirsch days ago the war is highly unpopular in the USA and Biden as a “Zionist” must tread carefully. However, with polls showing over 70% of mainstream Americans backing an operation against Hamas in Rafah, it is quite possible that the majority opinion isnt being shown. What is being shown however is a USA turning from Israel. Biden is the face of this turning.

As written here in the earlier days in the war, the Hamas war put Israel firmly in the USA camp, on the side of Ukraine and the West. With adversaries including Iran and Russia, the enemies of Israel are the same as the enemies of the West. However, the soft power proliferation of anti Israel social media enmasse, mass protests across Western cities, and the lack of effective Hasbara from the Israeli side has eroded Israel’s public support in many places where it was once more assured. Somehow Hamas’s role in the civilian slaughter in Gaza is wholesale ignored and Israel receives the universal blame. The reason Israel cannot be allowed to attack Hamas in Rafah is because of the civilians being hosted there. Little is mentioned that Hamas is there using the population as a human shield. To this end, it is preferable for many for Israel to LOSE the war, Hamas to WIN, simply on the shield of Gazan civilians to be avoided death. This now includes an offensive arms embargo.

On the Israeli side, a similar rhetoric is now being used by hostage families. While one cannot compare to their level of anguish and one can only salute their determination to free their loved ones, many advocate a Hamas victory to bring their loved ones home.

One must remember that Hamas and their backers are after one outcome: the demise of Israel. To this end, sadly, the enemies have accomplished a major public relations victory. However, not all hope is lost. The following are implications.

  • A slow war on Hamas and no end to the war. Increasingly, the United States is directly involved in prolonging the war. Quite simply, the Biden administration sees the war as an annoyance that is hurting his reelection chances, with a noisy opposition across the United States. As Hamas is pushing for maximalist demands that cannot be acceptable to any rational party, they are counting on Israel to bend under tremendous pressure, regroup, and then fight Israel another day. To prevent this, Israel must not agree to a permanent ceasefire. While the terms Israel is willing to agree are disturbing according to reports, thankfully so far they are refusing to end the fighting.
  • Waiting for October. While the prospects of better relations with a Republican victory in October under former president Donald Trump arnt assured, almost certainly his thinking will be radically different to Joe Biden’s. We know this simply from Trump’s first term where despite an “American First” platform, he recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli and moved the Embassy to Jerusalem. In the mean time a simmering war strategy may be better. To not enter with full force but not to give in to Hamas demands either. The unfortunate consequence is likely to be more hostage deaths, however the longer a simmering war continues, special forces could create a plan to rescue whomever is left alive.

In the mean time, relations with the United States could deteriorate further, and America could withdraw its diplomatic shield. Such a deterioration, which may only require an American abstention at the United Nations Security Council or ignoring International Criminal Court as they charge ahead to charge Israeli leaders would be completely catastrophic from a geopolitical perspective. It is of atmost importance for Israel to continue but attempt to contain the damage of an open dispute with its main defender.

  • A global pro-Israel civil society strategy. What has been missing in the entire war, and made evident in recent months, is an active, sustained global pro-Israel Civil society strategy. Israel has allies, and not only among some Diaspora Jews. Some, such as Iranian expatriate groups, have already been protesting alongside pro-Israel demonstrators. Evangelical Christians maintain strong support toward Israel in many countries, and there are many groups from Ukrainians to Hindus that are more pro Israel for their own various reasons. The government needs to create an active strategy to create new networks, that can be utilized and activated when needed.
  • Exposing links to anti American sentiment. Most of the groups that are attacking Israel, are attacking the United States as well. “Death to America!” has been a surprisingly common phrase used in the campus activism and elsewhere targeting the Hamas War. Remniscent of the Black Lives Matter mayhem during the Trump years, statues of Washington have been covered with kaffiyas, buildings and cars vandilized and graffitied. The language of “Intifada” is an attack on all the values that made America strong. Unfortunately the present climate is one of appeasing the rioters, with Biden pandering for votes. However, at its heart, the organizers at heart oppose American values as much as Israel’s.
  • Building a future alternative for Gaza. One of the major dilemmas facing Israel is a lack of a future plan for the Gaza Strip. The IDF enters, and withdraws, failing to conquer, but rather, clear an area, than withdraw. This action, lacking alternatives, allows the vanquished Hamas to re-occupy. Either the IDF needs to properly occupy Gaza and assert a civil administration, or it should prop up an alternative. So far an attempt to use local clans in Gaza City has been short lived. Here is a place where Israel’s Arab partners could come in handy. However, a lack of imagination plagues the issue. Without a future alternative, the war will likely continue endlessly.

Israel’s war situation from a strategic perspective has deteriorated since the early days of the war. However, so far the embargo and mass anti-Israel sentiment remain largely words and full of symbolism and has yet to reach into massive action. Hezbollah attacks, while damaging at a pinpoint level, have not escalated to a full war front.When Iran attacked, Israel was still able to call upon allies and successfully defend.

The important matter now is to contain the damage before words turn to action. In the mean time the war against Hamas, whom wishes the destruction of Israel, alongside its Iranian and Qatari allies continues. How Israel is able to regroup, will determine its future steps.

About the Author
Born in Israel but raised in Canada, Gil Lewinsky worked as a journalist in Jewish newspapers including the Jerusalem Post after completing a Masters degree at the Munk School of Global Affairs from the University of Toronto. He also has a LLM in International Law from Lancaster University in the UK. His past topics include a book written about the Status of Gaza under International Law soon after its conquest by Hamas in 2007. He is perhaps best known as one of two people that brought a flock of Jacob Sheep from Canada to Israel in 2016, making history. He currently works as a teacher and English public relations professional in Israel.