Biden, the Democrats and Israel

The American left demands an Israel-Hamas cease-fire, but on whose terms?

By: The Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2021

Since Hamas began its rocket offensive last week, the Biden Administration has wisely refused to dictate the Israeli response. But the U.S. narrative war took a notable turn this week as Congressional Democrats demanded a cease-fire. We hope the President bucks his instinct to follow his party and leads it instead.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have launched more than 3,000 rockets into Israel since last week, Jerusalem says, and Israel has been pummeling those groups in the Gaza strip to stop the attacks. Media and progressive activists blamed the Hamas-initiated war on Israel, as they always do, but the White House did not go along.

That position may not be viable for much longer on Capitol Hill. “Now, after more than a week of hostilities, it has become even more apparent that a cease-fire is necessary,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy told Politico, “If Israel doesn’t believe a cease-fire is in their interest, that doesn’t mean we have to accept that judgment. We have enormous persuasive power.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reportedly floated an arms-sale delay on Monday, but backed off on Tuesday citing assurances from the White House.

With any luck Israel will soon inflict enough damage on Gaza’s terrorist stockpiles and leadership that it can negotiate a genuine cease-fire. Israel wants a swift end to the conflict, not a repeat of its 2014 Operation Protective Edge, which lasted 50 days and involved a Gaza ground incursion.

Yet calls for a cease-fire for cease-fire’s sake ignore the drivers of the conflict. Hamas has won a political victory within Palestinian politics with its show of force. Its leaders were open to a temporary cease-fire after their attacks last week. They want to pocket a political win, walk away with their military capabilities intact, and regroup.

If Israel lets that happen, the next Gaza war will take even more lives. Hezbollah, the more proficient missile-armed Islamists on Israel’s northern border, would be emboldened. Why would Israel’s leadership allow that to happen—especially on the orders of a U.S. government that is also relieving economic pressure on Iran, the main sponsor of its terrorist foes?

One irony is that the calls for the U.S. to dictate terms to Israel come primarily from Democrats who want less U.S. involvement in Middle East security. Washington’s demands that Israel make politically impossible concessions could reduce U.S. influence and inflame the region further. The better approach is to mediate the conflict but recognize that Israel is the best judge of its own security. The U.S. can also try to capitalize on the Abraham Accords to include nations like the United Arab Emirates in any cease-fire settlement.

The real source of Democratic skepticism of Israel is less Mideast realities than domestic politics. Anti-Israel sentiment is at the leading edge of modern left-wing movements seeking to undermine liberal values. President Biden so far has shown fortitude in not buckling, but his party’s dominant left is raising the stakes at home and in the Middle East.
WSJ Opinion: Suddenly, Israel’s War With Hamas Reignites
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