Biden Loses the Plot on Israel

Column: What we've learned from six months of war

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
April 4, 2024

Six months. That's how long it took for President Biden to call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terrorists who killed some 1,200 people, raped women, tortured and murdered children, and took more than 200 captives, including American citizens, into the maze of tunnels, spider holes, and underground bunkers known as the Gaza Metro on October 7.

According to the White House, Biden on Thursday called for an "immediate ceasefire" and told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that "strikes on humanitarian workers" and "the overall humanitarian situation" are "unacceptable." Biden went on to say that "U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel's immediate action" and on steps to "address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers."

This is a demand that Israel appease Hamas at the negotiating table. This is a threat to condition military assistance to Israel based on absolutely no evidence and grounded in a ridiculous and unachievable standard of conduct. The move is cynical, opportunistic, and counterproductive. Biden has lost the plot.

For six months after the worst blow to the Jewish state since its founding in 1948, and the worst day for world Jewry since the Holocaust, Biden stood with Israel and defended Israel's right to self-defense. America supplied Israel with the weaponry required to free the hostages and destroy Hamas as a coherent military force. America took Israel's side in multilateral institutions such as the International Court of Justice.

The situation has changed. For weeks, Biden has let anyone within earshot know that he is frustrated and angry with Israel's strategy and tactics. He approved of Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D., N.Y.) call for new elections in Israel and the replacement of Netanyahu's government. His advisers have been trying to prevent Israel's planned offensive in the city of Rafah, where Hamas's remaining battalions use the hostages and 1.5 million Palestinians as human shields. Last month, Biden's U.N. ambassador chose not to veto a resolution calling for an unconditional ceasefire in Gaza—a diplomatic warning that America may not always be there for Israel.

The accidental IDF killing of seven employees of World Central Kitchen, celebrity chef José Andrés's charitable organization, has pushed Biden further away from America's ally. Israeli officials, from President Isaac Herzog to Prime Minister Netanyahu, have apologized for and promised to investigate the mistaken attack. The response has been outrage, disgust, and insinuation. Biden has joined in the chorus. He's fallen for the myth that Israel wants Palestinians to starve.

Chef Andrés told Reuters that his associates were targeted "systematically, car by car." He has no evidence for this. He wrote in the New York Times that what happened was "a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by the Israel Defense Forces." A "direct attack"? Where is his proof?

"You cannot win this war," Andrés wrote, "by starving an entire population." The accusation is grotesque. And stupid. If "starving an entire population" were Israel's policy, what was World Central Kitchen doing in Gaza in the first place?

Chef Andrés's rush to judgment has an underlying goal. "The U.S. must do more to tell Prime Minister Netanyahu this war needs to end now," he told Reuters. "The people of Israel need to remember, at this darkest hour, what strength truly looks like," he wrote in the Times. Who does Andrés think he is, calling for a unilateral ceasefire, lecturing Israelis on the nature of strength? He's not the Pope. He's a gourmand who serves traif.

For six months, huge swaths of the press have painted Israel in the worst possible light. Netanyahu could say the sky is blue and a thousand fact-checkers would scrub his claim for signs of misinformation. Pro-Hamas falsehoods, meanwhile, are recycled without second thought. The casualty numbers from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, the bogus tale of the Israeli rocket "fired" at al-Shifa hospital, the blood libel that Israelis separated Palestinian babies from their mothers, the lie that the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was free of Hamas infiltration—these stories were peddled in bad faith before Israel had a chance to rebut them.

Which is why a sense of moral clarity in this conflict is so important. Hamas is evil. Hamas could end the war it started by surrendering its cadres and releasing its prisoners. Hamas refuses. Hamas would rather sacrifice the civilian population of Gaza on the altar of its genocidal ambition and suicidal desires. Hamas brutalizes children, abuses captives, steals food, fires its rockets indiscriminately, wears no uniforms, and hides behind schools, hospitals, and mosques. Hamas does not just commit war crimes. It is a war crime.

A global movement sympathetic to Hamas is fighting an information war with the objective of isolating Israel diplomatically and undermining its right to exist. We have learned that the United States, our universities, and our social media platforms are fronts in this campaign. And we have learned that anti-Semitism has returned with shocking power to demonize, harass, intimidate, and assault Jews throughout the diaspora. What Jewish immigrants to America in the beginning of the 20th century called the "Golden Land" is no exception.

The political heroes of this moment are the men and women who have retained the ability to make clear distinctions between Israel and Hamas, between freedom, equality, and the rule of law and violence, terror, and fear. Few have put the matter as plainly as Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, a Democrat who recently has been making more sense than most of his colleagues. "Hamas is confident we’re going to capitulate—but it's never going to be me," he posted Wednesday on X. "Hamas only deserves elimination."

Alluding to the World Central Kitchen deaths, Fetterman continued, "This war is the sum total of daily, raw tragedies. The vast majority of the harshest criticism & all responsibility for this war belongs to Hamas. Stand with Israel."

Fetterman's message deserves a million retweets. And his story contains a lesson. Last December, Fetterman dropped his identification as a "Progressive" because he understood that the label has become entangled with the poisonous vines of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. And he, unlike Biden, refuses to play the anti-Israel lobby's game. He, unlike Biden, has drawn the correct lessons from the war in Gaza. John Fetterman knows that good friends come from unlikely places. That the truth is the most effective weapon in the war of ideas. And that the fate of our society, our nation, and our civilization depends on Israeli victory.