Wed 08 Nov 2023 8:22 am - Jerusalem Time

The American ticking hour, and Israel’s movements in its war against “Hamas”

Eldad Shavit

The US administration, under the direct supervision of President Biden, continues to provide support to Israel, even a week after the start of the ground operation in the Gaza Strip. The US President and other officials in his administration reiterate that Israel has the right and duty to protect its citizens. The White House also generally agrees with Israel's war goals: defeating Hamas. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken repeated this again in the press conference he held with Arab foreign ministers on October 4. There is also a comprehensive and ongoing dialogue taking place between the Israeli leadership and the United States, and it seems that it revolves around the following issues:

Humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip: It seems that Israel has adapted its policies to the demands of the American administration, and that the talk is now focused on asking the administration to allow a humanitarian truce, mainly with the aim of making room for the release of the kidnapped people, although this has not happened yet, according to public statements, Reaching understandings. In any case, the US administration is emphasizing that what is meant is not a ceasefire that it believes will serve the interests of the Hamas movement.

Strict adherence to the laws of war: distinguishing between the enemy and civilians, and trying to avoid causing harm to civilians, as much as possible. The administration has called for these considerations to be included in field operational plans, and it appears that Israeli measures now, especially with regard to the separation of the northern and southern Gaza Strip, as well as the designation of “safe zones” for the civilian population, are sufficient to meet American expectations.

Attention to the issue of the day after the war: In this regard, the gap between President Biden and his administration, and Israel, is evident. In this context, Blinken said after his meeting with the President of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah: “The next day, and in view of everything related to the future of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the visions, voices and aspirations of the Palestinians must be at the center of attention.” It is not clear how much these gaps will affect the US administration’s tolerance for Israel, although it is clear that the lack of Israeli desire to discuss this issue may negatively affect American patience with the continuation of hostilities, and exacerbate US doubts about Israel’s plans regarding “Next day to the war."

Motives for American support for the fighting in the Gaza Strip

The emotional support that President Biden provided to Israel, and the painful impression left on the president by the Hamas attack, as was evident in his speeches in solidarity with Israel, testify that what happened on October 7 is not just another round of fighting. In his opinion, it is a major event that not only caused the reshaping of Israeli identity, but its effects will also extend to the regional and international arenas for many years to come. This is due to the repercussions of the war on the global conflict between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”: the new “axis of evil” that includes, in the eyes of President Biden, China, Russia, Iran, and the parties supported by these countries.

In practice, expressing commitment to the ally Israel is, practically and theoretically, a position derived from the position of President Biden, who says that the United States must defend its allies, similar to the administration’s position in its support for Ukraine since the beginning of its war with Russia.

 In addition to the above, the American administration sees this war as an opportunity to reshape the Middle East again. Biden has already stated that there must be no return to “the status quo that existed before October 7th.” From his point of view, the defeat of Hamas will contribute to strengthening his perspective of strengthening the moderate countries in the region, pushing forward towards a political solution to the Palestinian issue, and strengthening normalization relations between Israel and the Arab countries, led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, it is clear to the Biden administration that Israel's failure to achieve its goals in the fight against the Hamas movement will strengthen the motives of Iran and Hezbollah to challenge Israel, and at the same time, the matter will affect the standing of the United States in the region and beyond.

The administration’s position mentioned above has implications with regard to the domestic American arena: despite the escalation of voices opposing the war launched by Israel on the Gaza Strip, and the impact of this, consequently, on American support for Israel, the president’s behavior strengthens his image as a strong leader, especially on the threshold of the opening of the election year for Presidential in the United States.

Considerations affecting the American administration

Conduct of the military operation: The American administration is concerned with the success of the military campaign. There are American officials who have provided (and are providing) advice to Israel, but it seems that they do not have in their hands an effective alternative military plan that guarantees the success of the campaign. “The IDF standing still” without an assessment that progress has been made toward achieving the goal of defeating Hamas may reduce the administration’s willingness to continue giving Israel time. It is also possible that there is a difference between the time required to achieve military objectives, according to Israeli statements (months, and perhaps more), and the administration’s demands (a few weeks, maximum). It must be emphasized here that the administration is not engaged in a public discussion with Israel regarding the military aspects of the war, although the American media published news about certain criticisms directed at Israel in this regard.

The behavior of the Israeli government: The logic that Biden presents as a basis for supporting Israeli military action is that its success will open the door to an Israeli-Palestinian political settlement process that serves the vision of “two states for two peoples.” Even if it is not clear whether such a goal is achievable, it is important for the US administration that the Israeli government act responsibly and refrain from taking actions in the West Bank that would hinder the achievement of this vision. Administration spokesmen are making strong statements against settler violence targeting the Palestinian population in the West Bank, fearing that this phenomenon will erode the American ability to provide support to Israel, on both the logistical and moral levels. In addition to the above, it is likely that the administration is operating based on the assumption that the internal political reality in Israel will change after the military campaign, and this will allow political-diplomatic action to be promoted. The US administration's awareness that Israel is not prepared for this matter, and that it is consciously acting against the logic of a political settlement the day after the war, will make it difficult for the administration to provide support to it in the next stages of the military campaign.

Internal American issues: Even if the American administration does not currently express concern about the consequences of its policies on the president’s political standing, on the eve of the start of the presidential election year, it is already clear that the current American administration will face, with the increasing number of civilian casualties and destruction in the Gaza Strip, mounting criticism of the support provided to It is available to Israel, especially by groups traditionally affiliated with the Democratic Party. Opinion polls conducted in the United States indicate increasing criticism among young Democratic voters, in addition to the loss of initial support for the administration among Muslim voters, especially in states such as Michigan (where Muslims represent 3% of the population), which may It turns the scales in the 2024 presidential elections. It is noteworthy that the media reported the presence of a growing “rebellion” in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by parties critical of the policies of the Biden administration.

Insights and recommendations

Contrary to what happened in previous rounds of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations (especially between Israel and Hamas), when the gap between the media and public opinion in Europe and the United States, which was critical of Israel, affected the positions of the leaders of these countries, and their support for Israel quickly diminished, the leaders remained These countries have been committed to supporting Israel throughout the weeks that have passed since the start of the war against Hamas, despite the escalation and breadth of popular criticism. It is clear that President Biden and his administration are leading this trend with ability and resolve, at least publicly (if we exclude disagreements regarding the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip). There are no major differences here in positions between the American administration, the majority of European leaders, and Israel.

From the Israeli point of view, it is the Biden administration's position that will decide whether to take the time to move forward in the direction of achieving the goals of the Israeli military campaign against Hamas. Accordingly, Israel must focus its efforts, no less than its military efforts, on ensuring continued American support for the period it needs to achieve its military objectives against Hamas, and at the same time, continue to deter Hezbollah from pushing An escalation trend that will lead to the outbreak of a large-scale war on the northern front.

The immediate goal is to prevent the escalation of calls for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. It is clear to the US administration, at least so far, that a ceasefire (unlike short-term humanitarian truces) may increase the pressure calling for a cessation of hostilities and allow the Hamas movement to recover and restore part of its administrative and military capabilities, which it rejects. It is true that Israel does not have the ability to directly influence some of the parties that impose the American administration’s positions, but Israel must continue to highlight its effort to adhere to the principles of humanitarian aid and the lives of civilians in the Gaza Strip, as long as the objectives of the fighting are presented clearly, and in realistic terms. It proves that it is implementable, which increases the chances that the American administration will rely on it to maintain its support for Israel.

Even in light of this problematic political reality that Israel is experiencing, it is necessary to present a realistic political plan that takes into account American interests and ideas. In this context, Israeli official spokesmen, in particular, must refrain from issuing statements that constitute fuel for opponents of Israel and reasons for withdrawing its support. It is very important to think concretely about the issue of the “day after the war”, while avoiding harmful (and unrealistic) statements, such as “occupation of the Gaza Strip” or “displacement of Palestinians”.


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The American ticking hour, and Israel’s movements in its war against “Hamas”