Ira Straus

Yes, Biden is killing Gazans by stalling Israel

How many civilians has the Biden Administration caused to die, by delaying Israel’s military moves and keeping it from actually defeating Hamas? The answer runs probably into the thousands, as we shall see.

The total time of the delays is staggering. Half the time of this war has consisted of delays — delays imposed mostly by the US. Each delay gives Hamas time to dig in further in the next city. Each gives Hamas time to add to the civilian toll that it wants to extract and blame on Israel.

Each delay also gives the UN agencies, the media, and NGOs more time to run interference against civilian evacuations. Instead of helping prepare safe evacuations, they have spent their time arguing before the world that no evacuation is possible. Even today, UNRWA is still running argumentative interference against evacuation from Rafah.

Each time, civilians eventually evacuate and the agencies and media are proven wrong in denying that it can be done. But the next time around, the media and the agencies repeat their old line that there is no place for civilians to go.

Are they unable to learn? Or is the problem a deeper one: that they invested in obstructing the evacuations, due to their own ideological motivations?

The non-cooperation on evacuation and argumentation against it: it imposes further delays on Israel. It makes it harder to persuade Gazans to evacuate. Israel has to issue the evacuation warnings repeatedly. It often requires Israel to make preliminary military incursions and bombings, before it can convince the civilians to finally leave and stop deferring to the Hamas-media-UN encouragement to stay.

The delays have taken a terrible toll, not only in lives. They have given Hamas full warning of each Israeli move, and plenty of time before each move so they can prepare the battlefield — and maximize civilian casualties. And move critical personnel to safety further south, for preparing the next battle there.

The series of delays

One delay has been imposed after another. Here is a list of the main ones:

  1. Israel was planning on beginning a ground operation a week after the October 7 attack. The U.S. delayed it two more weeks until October 28, on the ground — or pretext — of Biden insisting that he was on the verge of getting a hostage deal with Hamas. Meanwhile Hamas got time to prepare, squirrel away its hostage, and make the war deadlier – and the global media more time to turn against Israel. The clock was ticking, and Biden ran it out even before Israel got started on the ground. In this manner, Biden defeated Israel from the start on the global scale.
  2. The delays in taking Gaza City.
  3. The delay between taking Gaza City and moving on to Deir al-Balah.
  4. The delay after taking Deir al-Balah, before moving on in December to Khan Younis. This included the temporary ceasefire for a week, Nov. 24-30. It enabled Hamas to regroup, in “return” for an unequal deal on hostages — exchanging a fraction of the innocent hostages for three times that number of guilty Palestinian prisoners and terrorists.
  5. The three-month delay, which is only ending now, after taking Khan Younis.
  6. The delays between each preliminary step toward taking Rafah.

It adds up to more than four months of delays, in a war that has thus far lasted nine months.

In other words, at least half the war has consisted of delays.

The deadly consequences

The delays have been dangerous and damaging. They have prolonged the war. They have left the civilians suffering twice as long from the shortfalls in food, water, and medicine. This is the one thing that really could lead to mass-scale civilian deaths, and Biden and the media have worsened the problem considerably, while focusing attention on the much smaller problem of deaths from bombings.

The US, UN, and media have caused the bulk of these damaging delays. They are guilty for them. They have demanded them mercilessly, even while blaming Israel for the humanitarian consequences of their own policy.

Israeli deference to these demands may have been excessive. It may have also committed the sin that is called “scrupulosity” by moral theorists and slowed its operations too much, long-term, for the sake of short-term scruples.

However, Israel has been trapped in a diplomatic pickle on this: damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t.

Evaluating the damages

Israel would have long since completed the active phase of the war, had it not been for these delays. Hamas would have been more completely destroyed. Instead the world has kept it alive, and it is expecting to resume control of Gaza once the world stops Israel completely.

How many fewer civilians would have died, if Israel had proceeded with the war in a normal way, without President Biden and the media and the agencies running interference against it?

We will never know the exact figure. But we can see that it would be in the thousands.

Israel is being used as a scapegoat for this. The Administration should start blaming itself and stop projecting the blame.

We should also ask, “How many fewer Ukrainians would have died, if Biden had not limited the aid at each stage to just enough to keep the war going, and had not always opposed giving Ukraine the weapons it needed to win?”

The answer: even more thousands.


Evaluating the causes of this disastrous policy

We should ask, finally, “Why does the Administration make arguments in both cases, not just one, against letting our allies win? Does it have something against winning?” This has not been a problem specific to its attitude toward either Israel or Ukraine, so it must be a problem in the general mentality and logic of the Administration.

The Administration itself needs to be asking these questions about what has gone wrong with its thinking. It has been making truly deadly mistakes. It will never stop making them, if it does not understand why it keeps making them.

About the Author
Chair, Center for War/Peace Studies; Senior Adviser, Atlantic Council of the U.S.; formerly a Fulbright professor of international relations; studied at Princeton, UVA, Oxford. Institutions named above for identification purposes only; views expressed herein are solely the responsibility of the author.
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