Parry Rosenberg

Hey Joe, Where do you go from here?

The latest hostage release-ceasefire proposal viewed through the eyes of the American president, and through the scrim of American values, seemed so titled towards Hamas that it was perceived to be a no-brainer for the terrorist group to accept. Biden’s sole fear was that Netanyahu would be forced by his far-right flank to renege on the offer. 

Fearing that Netanyahu’s far-right would scuttle the proposal, President Biden did the unprecedented; he strategically made a prime time address and publicly laid out the core phases of the Israeli offer. He intentionally gave the address on a Friday afternoon, as the sun set over Jerusalem, which meant any Israeli outrage or backlash would have to wait at least twenty-four hours until the end of the conclusion of the Jewish Sabbath. 

As Shabbat concluded across Israel, reactions to the proposal from the broad scope of Israeli society made their way to X, Tik Tok, Instagram, and mainstream media.  The Far-Right members of Netanyahu’s coalition threatened to bolt, Bibi screamed at the top of his lungs that Biden left out some key elements of his proposal, yet refused to publicize what it actually contained, while the hostage families led massive public demonstrations portraying strong support for the deal, so much so that even the two ultra religious parties in Netanyahu’s coalition gave their stamp of approval for the deal. As expected, the centralist and left opposition parties also heavily supported the proposal and promised to backstop the proposal in Parliament. 

Biden, meanwhile, unleashed the most persuasive emissaries of his foreign policy team who touted the Israeli proposal and stated as often as possible that they had Bibi’s commitment to abide by it. Biden, then turned to a UN Security Council Resolution in a successful bid to gain the world’s backing of the proposal. Biden played his cards on the Israel front perfectly, snookering Bibi to the point he could not back out of the proposal. 

This was only half the battle. Biden still needed to pressure Hamas to accept the deal. He utilized whatever political capital he had to push his Arab allies to coerce Hamas. At every media interview, his emissaries claimed the only thing stopping a Gaza ceasefire was Hamas. He pushed Qatar to threaten Hamas’s political leaders with expulsion and to freeze their funds. The UNSC Resolution was also designed to exert excessive pressure upon Hamas. Biden hoped the resolution would inspire world leaders to demand that Hamas lay down their guns. Additionally, it is extremely plausible that the expose on Sinwar’s communications published in the Wall Street Journal was leaked by US Intelligence to impel Sinwar to accept the proposal.  

After eleven days of pressure and waiting, Hamas finally responded. As in past negotiations, they repeated multiple times their “positive attitude”, changed key paragraphs, added multiple amendments and then claimed “with minor adjustments” they could agree. Like previously rejected proposals, this was not an acceptance, but a counter offer.

All the pressure that Biden exerted on both sides, all the strategic energy spent on snookering Bibi, all the political capital spent on the Arab world, and the end result is the same. No deal.

The reasons for the failed deal can be attributed to two factors. First, Sinwar still believes (and probably correctly) that he is winning the war, that the longer he remains safely buried in his massive underground tunnel system, while the Gazan death-toll mounts, and more images of bloodied babies flood international media outlets and social media, the more Israel will be criminalized and de-legitimized.  Second, Biden’s pressure was completely misplaced. Sinwar couldn’t care less what hardships await Haniyeh and the rest of the political cadre, as he no longer sees them as having influence or relevance beyond serving as his mouthpiece. The only possible Sinwar influencer is Iran, but Iran also believes they are finally winning the war against Israel. With their “Axis of Resistance” pummeling Israel from the north and the east, and Israel sinking in the mud of Gaza while bleeding international support, Israel is becoming the pariah state Iran long dreamed of.  What Biden completely missed in his well executed strategic plan was that all his pressure points missed the only target that matters; that of the Islamic Regime of Iran.

Biden centered his attention on the Israel-Hamas war, thinking if he could stop it, everything else would fall into place. He tried valiantly with his “Don’t’s” to avoid a regional conflict, while what he failed to understand was that from the very start, this was a full regional conflict. The only route to plausibly contain this regional conflict travels directly through Tehran. In addition, Biden has no answer to Iran’s nuclear breakout, except possibly a prayer that containment after the fact may work. His Sunni allies look at this and rather than fully committing to American positions, hedge their bets with overtures towards China and Iran. 

So hey Joe, where do you go from here?

Continuing to rely primarily on diplomatic methods and never ending ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, while ignoring Hezbollah and maintaining a useless tit for tat with the Houthis will continue to be as unsuccessful as it has proven to be over the last eight months. Furthermore, if Biden continues this strategy, it will embolden Iran and its proxies. For what Biden views as the civilized approach, the region looks at it primarily as an American weakness. 

The Hezbollah front is long past a slow boil (over 215 missiles fired from Lebanon alone yesterday), getting closer by the day to a full blown war. Sinwar will continue to reject any type of hostage release-cease fire deal and the Houthis will increase attacks on shipping lanes, further impacting world trade while Iran will continue to push their proxies while accelerating their nuclear aspirations. Currently, the only real projection of power in the arena is Iran and it will continue to increase their pressure on Israel as long as they perceive the Americans to be paper tigers.

Alternatively, Biden can return to the show of force he very temporarily projected in the early days of October. He can return an aircraft carrier and fleet to the Lebanese coast, he can add a second carrier group to the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. He can more fully enforce Iranian sanctions. Instead of “Don’t”, he should forcefully demand “Stop”. Only a full projection of true American military power alongside a real credible threat of directly harming Iranian assets both inside and outside Iran will achieve American objectives of de-escalation in the Middle East.

Does Biden have the fortitude so close to an American election to take the hard necessary steps to successfully de-escalate the region.

Again I ask, Hey Joe, where do you go from here?

About the Author
Parry Rosenberg is a strategic analyst who guides international clients through complex issues and a labyrinth of corporate landscapes. He received an Hons.BA in Political Science from Haifa University, and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from York University. In 2021, he and his wife made Aliyah, and have since called Tel Aviv home.
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