Since Israel’s declaration of war on Hamas last week, the United States has come through with flying colors in terms of its strong and unambiguous political and military support for its greatest ally in the Middle East.
Within hours of Hamas’ murderous rampage in southern Israel, which so far has claimed the lives of 1,300 people, including 27 American citizens and 11 Thai workers, the U.S. — the first nation to recognize Israeli independence in 1948 — has solidly demonstrated its friendship with Israel.
President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he fully backed Israel’s military campaign against Hamas.
And in a video from the White House, Biden said, “Today the people of Israel are under an attack orchestrated by a terrorist organization, Hamas. In this moment of tragedy, I want to say to them and to the world and to terrorists everywhere that the United States stands with Israel. We’ll make sure they can defend themselves.”
Biden pledged that Israel’s request for weaponry and munitions would be processed immediately. He was true to his word. The first arms shipments arrived a couple of days ago and more will be flown in as needed, said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
And in an implicit message to Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006, Biden said, “This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. The world is watching.”
On the same day, Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin announced that the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford and five guided missile cruisers and destroyers would be deployed close to Israel in the eastern Mediterranean Sea to “bolster regional deterrence efforts.”
Austin, who was scheduled to arrive in Israel on October 13, said that the show of force was intended to underscore the U.S.’ “ironclad support for the Israel Defence Forces and the Israeli people” and to warn Hamas allies Iran, Hezbollah and Syria not to intervene in the war, the fifth in 15 years pitting Israel against Hamas.
To further assure Israel that the United States had its back, General Michael Kurilla, the commander of American troops in the region, issued a statement saying that he “stands firmly with our Israeli and regional partners to address the risks of any party seeking to expand the conflict.”
On October 10, shortly after the facade of the White House was lit up in white and blue, the national colors of Israel, Biden, a longtime supporter of Israel, delivered an impassioned speech.
“There are moments in this life — I mean this literally — when an unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world,” he said in a direct reference to the Hamas terrorists who killed men, women and children in cold-blooded assaults. “This is an act of sheer evil.”
Flanked by Vice-President Kama Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden said that the attacks on towns and kibbutzim had awakened “painful memories and scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people.”
Ignoring calls from Russia and China to agree to an immediate ceasefire, Biden said, “Like every nation, Israel has a right to respond — indeed has a duty to respond — to these vicious attacks.”
This was a telling remark, indicating that the Biden administration will not object to an Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, which now seems imminent.
Blinken, in a whirlwind visit to Israel on October 12, suggested that Israel would be well within its rights to invade Gaza.
“No country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens, or simply return to the conditions that allowed it to take place,” he declared. “Israel has the right, indeed the obligation, to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again.”
He added, “The message that I bring to Israel is this: You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself, but as long as America exists … we will always be there by your side.”
Blinken, a Jew whose stepfather was a Holocaust survivor, said he personally understood “the harrowing echoes that Hamas’ massacres carry for Israel Jews” and “for Jews everywhere.”
Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to replenish Israel’s armed forces with weapons and munitions. He noted that Israel enjoys “overwhelming, overwhelming bipartisan support in our Congress for Israel’s security.”
The outpouring of American assistance and moral support for Israel stands in sharp contrast to the chill that set in on Israeli-U.S. relations after Netanyahu returned to power late last year.
Forming a far right-wing government that Biden himself described as “one of the most extreme” in Israeli history, Netanyahu announced that he intended to overhaul the judiciary, a plan that caused an immense outcry in Israel and led to weekly demonstrations throughout the country.
Biden said that Netanyahu’s proposal could well damage the “democratic values that lie at the heart of our partnership.”
In addition, Biden and Netanyahu are at odds over the unresolved Palestinian question. He urged Netanyahu to preserve “the path to a negotiated two state solution,” which he and his coalition partners staunchly oppose.
Due to these major disagreements, Biden snubbed Netanyahu, refusing to meet him until the third week of September. They conferred in New York City, but Netanyahu still has not been received in the White House by Biden.
Nonetheless, Israel’s strategic relationship remains on an even keel. As Biden said last month, “Even when we have our differences, my commitment to Israel is ironclad.”
And now that Israel is waging a fifth war against Hamas, which promises to be the deadliest, Israel’s ties with the United States are expected to grow still closer and stronger.