Israel, Hamas, Iran and Biden
As the latest war between Hamas and Israel enters its second week, the narrative follows a familiar scenario. Hamas is firing rockets at Israeli towns, Israel retaliates by bombarding the rocket source in Gaza, Hamas is circling civilian casualties, and the world is relying on Israel to stop defending itself.
Hopefully that’s not the trap the Biden administration falls into as the fighting continues. So far, the White House has supported Israel’s right to self-defense. But the weekend bombing of a building in Gaza housing press offices, including journalists from the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, led to cries of outrage and an accusation. State Department guard in Israel on the protection of journalists in combat zones.
But who really endangers journalists? The Israeli government says the multi-story building was also used by Hamas for intelligence purposes. AP says he was unaware of it, but it was not the National Press Club in Washington, DC Using civilians and journalists as shields is a common Hamas tactic, and Hamas likely did not agree. his plans with Western journalists.
Israel also warned journalists and others in the building to clear an hour before the attack. They did so and no injuries were reported. It also allowed Hamas militants to escape, but it shows how far Israel has gone in this conflict to avoid killing civilians. Inevitably, there will be mistakes in the war and civilians will die, but it is remarkable how discriminatory the targeting of Israel has been.
The truth to keep in mind is that this conflict was started by Hamas and another radical organization, Islamic Jihad. They are trying to kill Israeli civilians with rockets supplied by Iran or made in Gaza with parts supplied by Iran. Hamas’s rocket arsenal is larger and more sophisticated than ever, and the Israel Defense Forces said on Sunday Islamists fired some 3,000 rockets at Israel. The miracle is that more Israelis did not die, and this is in large part due to Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Once Hamas launches one of these rocket offensives, Israel has an obligation to its own people to degrade the threat. This means attacking the underground tunnels where weapons are made and stored. Israel wants to avoid a ground incursion, which would increase casualties on both sides, but that means its air assault must be aggressive and last long enough to get the job done.
It is a political and military judgment that the Israeli government must pass. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers are well aware that diplomatic costs increase with each day as the bombing continues. But they can hardly stop as long as the rockets keep coming.
One of Iran’s obvious goals to encourage Hamas’s rocket offensive is to blow up last year’s Abraham accords between Israel and several Arab states. The accords were the best opening for Judeo-Arab peace in decades, and they created a potential united front against Iran’s plans for regional domination.
They also removed the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the center of Middle East politics and as the main obstacle to wider regional cooperation. The Palestinians were forced to consider a new reality that might cause them to rethink their refusal to accept a reasonable two-state solution. But with the Trump administration ending the Abraham accords, Hamas and Iran see a chance to revert to the trend of the Obama years when US-Israel relations frayed and Iran was on the move. .
All of this should give the Biden administration a break in its rush to court Iran and revert to the failed 2015 nuclear deal. That deal has not stopped Iran’s search for arms, and it has simply delayed the day when he will be able to deploy a weapon. Meanwhile, he gave Iran more money to arm its regional proxies, including Hamas.
President Biden and his strategists believe the return to the nuclear deal will help the United States withdraw from the Middle East. As the Hamas-Israel conflict shows, it is more likely to do the opposite.
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Published in the print edition of May 17, 2021.