Patterico's Pontifications

5/13/2024

The Biden Administration’s Stupid Middle East Game

Filed under: General — JVW @ 12:54 pm



[guest post by JVW]

The Jerusalem Post had a fantastic piece last Thursday on what they believe the Biden Administration is doing in the Israel-Hamas War. Naturally, it’s infuriating. The author of the piece, retired Israeli professor Gerald M. Steinberg, suggests one idealistic reason for the administration’s betrayal, and one rather sinister reason. First the naïve idealism:

Did Biden suddenly do a 180 degree flip, and if so, why? Were the humanitarian concerns for the innocents in Gaza (as well as the many Hamas supporters who cheered the brutal October 7 slaughter and rape) the reason, as indicated by Secretary of Defense Austin? Or was Team Biden spooked by the campus mobs into caving-in to their demands?

Most likely, the correct answer is “none of the above.” A look at the details suggests a carefully planned strategy, under the heading of a Grand Bargain for the Middle East. This dream scenario has been in the background (and at times, foreground) of Administration policies for months. The essential elements include “irrevocable commitment” to Palestinian statehood and “end of conflict;” large-scale Israeli withdrawal on the West Bank, and a formal Saudi-Israeli peace agreement echoing the Abraham Accords.

And here comes the selfish ulterior motives:

In other words, Biden and Secretary of State Blinken are aiming for the diplomatic equivalent of a moon shot, the Nobel Peace Prize, and, not incidentally, victory in the November elections. The script for redrawing the map was written by Tom Friedman, the veteran New York Times columnist who has been promoting versions of this for decades.

Tom Friedman. Un-frickin’-believable. It comes as no surprise to any of us that U.S. Presidents — and especially Democrat Presidents — place a great deal of prestige in winning a Noble Peace Prize. It’s been pretty well known that Jimmy Carter was deeply disappointed not to have been included in the prize shared by Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat after completing the Camp David accords. Bill Clinton, desperate to salvage a foreign policy legacy in the final months of his desultory Presidency, bullied poor Ehud Barak into accepting more than the Israeli public was willing to countenance then watched as Yasser Arafat walked away from the deal and started the Second Intifada. Barack Obama had the happy fortune to win a Nobel Peace Prize a mere nine months after having been given the key to the Executive Washroom, and spent the next eighty-seven months of his Presidency trying to justify it by pursuing a ridiculous rapprochement with Iran.

So naturally Joe Biden, a man whose foreign policy has thus far been associated with humiliation, weakness, and fecklessness, thinks nothing about further sacrificing American prestige in order to get out from between the rock and a hard place which his vacillating has led him to. I think Professor Steinberg’s evocation of a moon shot is accurate here: the only way this seems to remotely have a chance for success is through a miraculous turn of events in which Israel restrains from finishing off Hamas in Rafa, Hamas itself determines that armed struggle is not a viable way to secure a Palestinian state, both sides agree upon definitive borders and a mutual non-aggression policy, and neighboring Arab states accept a poor and backward Palestinian state on its borders which will be subject to Iranian meddling and which will probably seek to destabilize regional leadership once it gets tired of targeting Jews. None of these seem likely to happen; a confluence of all three is pretty much unfathomable. Prof. Steinberg addresses this fantasy:

The problem (and it is a very big one) is that the entire scenario is built on a foundation of wishful thinking, not history and political realism. Similarly, the triumphant 1993 Oslo “peace” plan was based on the same illusions, and ended in the disaster known as the Second Intifada, in which over 1000 Israelis were murdered in mass bombings, and thousands more died on the Palestinian side. It turned out that Yasser Arafat and the PLO, as well as Hamas leaders never bought into the “shared interests” that were taken for granted by the optimistic Israelis and the Clinton administration.

And in trying to keep Iran and Hezbollah from interfering in this conflict, the administration’s muzzling of the IDF likely has the opposite effect:

Watching closely, Iran and its proxies also see these developments as weakening the IDF’s capability to use its military superiority offensively. And as long as Hezbollah’s terror squads remain in southern Lebanon, the 50,000 or so Israeli civilians that were evacuated from their homes after October 7 will continue to be “displaced.” In Tehran, regime leaders draw strength from the very visible American constraints placed on Israel, including after the Iranian missile attack on the night of April 13. Thus, instead of encouraging restraint and cooperation, as the dream scenario envisions, greater instability and violence are far more likely. As with Oslo, when this happens, Biden, Blinken and the others will be gone.

[. . .]

Israelis, including Netanyahu’s most vocal critics, know that withholding munitions to prevent the IDF from entering Rafah and recognizing a virtual Palestinian state will not end 76 years of Palestinian rejectionism. More likely, the determination to attack Israel will increase, accompanied by Iranian support. The addition of a Saudi-Israeli peace package will not change this reality.

The Biden Administration has glommed on to one of the more witless conceits of the left, that isolating Benjamin Netanyahu will magically clear the way for a “more moderate” Israeli leader to emerge and deal with Hamas and the Palestinian people with a more deft touch, which will in itself somehow end up in a lasting peace deal between the two sides. That is more magical thinking from the usual crew of overambitious but underwhelming twenty-somethings who influence the professional political hacks who in turn tell Joe Biden what he is supposed to believe. But Professor Steinberg reminds us that “peace between Israel and the Palestinians will only come when the expectations overlap with political realism. Until then, Israel, under Netanyahu and whoever comes next, will do what is necessary to defend its citizens.” [Bolded emphasis added by me.]

And this very much should include the eradication of Hamas.

– JVW


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