Israelis on Front Lines Say Biden's Peace Plan Is Forcing Them To Fight Forever War

(Miriam Alster/Pool via Reuters/File Photo)
June 10, 2024

TEL AVIV—President Joe Biden has admonished Israelis to stop waging "indefinite war" and embrace his plan for Middle East peace.

But more than half a dozen war-weary Israeli reserve soldiers from across the country told the Washington Free Beacon that Biden’s diplomacy is actually dragging out the Gaza war he is pressing Israel to bring to an end. By restraining Israel, they said, Biden is preventing the Jewish state from defeating or deterring its genocidal enemies.

"It's very frustrating," said Snir Tal, 24, a reservist in an elite Israel Defense Forces commando unit. Tal saw two of his best friends killed during six months of service in the war in the Gaza Strip, which the Palestinian terror group Hamas started with a massacre and mass abduction in southern Israel on Oct. 7. "It feels like all our work and all our losses were for nothing."

"I don't think Biden really understands this neighborhood," said Emil Grishpun, 40, a Finance Ministry official and infantry reservist who volunteered on Oct. 7 and served four and a half months in the West Bank. "We're here doing the job, so let us finish the job. Otherwise, it will be like this until the end of time."

"The U.S. is really strong-arming us and not letting us have the military might that we need to win," said Etay Inbar, 34, a principal at a Tel Aviv venture capital fund and military intelligence reservist who has been involved in the search for the Israeli hostages. "What we need to do is come to a conclusion quickly, but we need to come to a positive conclusion for us so we don't face the same thing a decade from now."

Israelis are overwhelmingly grateful for U.S. military and diplomatic support, and officials are generally loath to criticize the country's most important ally. But, more than eight months into the Gaza war, IDF reservists's frustration with the Biden administration reflects growing awareness in Israel of a conflict between Washington's imagined Middle East and the brutal reality. It’s a shift that could complicate U.S. efforts to turn Israelis against their own government in the name of peace.

Emil Grishpun, left (via Emil Grishpun)

In his May 31 remarks about Middle East peace, Biden criticized Israel’s "pursuit of an unidentified notion of ‘total victory’" in Gaza, invoking a phrase favored by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The president appealed to Israelis to press their leaders to accept a proposed ceasefire deal that would see a "permanent end to hostilities" and the release of thousands of Palestinian terrorists from prison in exchange for Hamas’s return of the some 120 hostages still in Gaza, many of whom are believed to be dead.

Biden also held out the promise of quiet in Israel’s north—where at least 60,000 Israelis remained displaced amid daily bombardment by Hezbollah, a Hamas ally and fellow Iran-backed terror group—as well as of a "historic normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia" and a "regional security network to counter the threat posed by Iran."

Israel has accepted a version of the plan. Hamas has yet to formally respond. The White House and the Israeli government both declined to comment for this article.

As Biden has ramped up pressure on Israel to end the war without dismantling Hamas, Israelis have grown increasingly distrustful of the U.S. president, according to previously unpublished results from an omnibus survey by Hebrew University of Jerusalem pollsters.

Forty-five percent of Jewish Israelis see Biden as "anti-Israel," the pollsters found last month, up from just 18 percent in January. Two-thirds say former president Donald Trump, who leads Biden in polls of their 2024 electoral rematch, is more pro-Israel than Biden, and most believe the Republican would increase U.S. support for Israel.

The results were comparable among IDF soldiers, who accounted for 425 of the 1,586 respondents.

In an op-ed published last week by Israel's Channel 12 news station, Azar Gat, a left-leaning Tel Aviv University military historian and self-described "fierce" critic of Netanyahu, slammed Biden's ceasefire proposal as a "complete surrender" that would critically compromise Israel's "security and future."

"No country can accept a complete surrender—in my estimation, not even Israel, after the full extent of Hamas's demands and their meaning become clear, including in the future blood reckoning," Gat wrote. "The United States is essential to Israel's security and existence. But it is worth remembering that except for the Kissinger era, 99 percent of American initiatives in the region since 1984 have failed miserably."

After Biden last month threatened to stop supplying Israel with offensive weapons over concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza, a series of reservists anonymously spoke out in protest of U.S. influence on the war effort. A commander alleged in an open letter that "the IDF became an official subcontractor of the United States." Another soldier said in a video that he and his comrades had not "left our families and sacrificed ourselves" to "bow down to the Americans."

In similar clip that circulated widely in Hebrew-language media, a reservist issued a call from atop his tank for Israel to break its dependence on the United States, saying: "I hope that on the eve of Independence Day we will manage to be a little more independent and that we will come to our senses and be stronger, win the war, and achieve our goals."

Shilo Marom (via Shilo Marom)

Shilo Marom, 33, a religious teacher and father of four young children from Keshet, a town in the Golan Heights, confirmed to the Free Beacon that he is the reservist in the viral video.

"I'm just a regular guy, but what I see is that the people of Israel want to defeat Hamas, want to bring back the hostages, and want to go all in. But for some reason we're dragging our feet in the sand in Gaza," he said. "The only explanation I have is that Biden is holding us back."

During the first four months of the war, Marom's reserve tank battalion spearheaded the IDF incursion into Khan Younis, a former Hamas stronghold in southern Gaza. Two members of his unit were among nearly 300 soldiers killed so far in ground operations in Gaza, according to the IDF.

Marom returned to duty at the end of April, this time to guard the so-called Western Erez Crossing, the third entry point for humanitarian aid into Gaza, which Israel opened under U.S. pressure. He lost patience with the assignment after a couple weeks and recorded the video.

"We see Hamas terrorists with weapons a couple hundred meters away, but we're not allowed to shoot them," he said, referring to IDF rules of engagement that strictly protect aid convoys. "Would you not be frustrated?"

Nisael Vaknin (via Nisael Vaknin)

Since Oct. 7, the Biden administration has not only held back Israel's military response to Hamas but also to Hezbollah and Iran, which launched its first-ever direct attack on the country on April 12.

According to Kobi Michael, a former head of Palestinian affairs at Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, containing and ending the Gaza war is the "cornerstone" of the Biden administration's Middle East strategy. He said that means keeping Israel strong enough to counter Iran and its terror affiliates but too weak to defeat them.

"Instead of defeating Hamas, defeating Hezbollah, defeating the Houthis, defeating the Shiite militias, and weakening Iran … the Americans are trying to weaken Israel. They want to bring us to our knees so we will agree to Hamas's demands," said Michael, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and the Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem.

"At the end of the day, they are normalizing Hamas and keeping Hamas as the sovereign power in the Gaza Strip. This will give encouragement to the Iranian axis and create huge challenges for Israel on all the other fronts."

Although Israel has appeared to delay and adjust its conduct of the Gaza war in response to U.S. demands, Michael argued that no Israeli leader could leave Hamas in control of Gaza.

"[U.S. pressure] doesn't mean Israel won't successfully end the war in the Gaza Strip, but it means the war will be much more complicated and difficult," he said.

Nisael Vaknin, 34, a railway worker and reservist tank loader, deployed last month to Israel's evacuated northern border area, just up the road from his mostly abandoned hometown, Shlomi. He previously served four months in Gaza starting on Oct. 7.

"It's all the same war," he said. "We have to finish Hamas in Gaza so we can go deal with Hezbollah in Lebanon—if not now, then within a couple years."

Like several other reservists, Vaknin expressed hope that Biden will no longer be in office when the time comes for war in the north.

"If Trump wins, I think it might be different," he said. "We might have the freedom to change our reality."