US President Joe Biden has, through word and action, demonstrated he has Israel’s back.
He demonstrated this by speaking with moral clarity about good vs. evil within hours of the Simcaht Toaah massacres, by sending two aircraft carrier strike forces to the area to deter Iran and Hezbollah, and by making a wartime visit in which he displayed tremendous sympathy and empathy.
And he demonstrated it again Thursday evening in an address in which he explained to the American people why he would ask for a massive aid package for Israel and Ukraine — some $14 billion for Israel and $61 billion. The US president stood up and explained to the American people why this was critical for Israel and Ukraine, not only for Israel and Ukraine — but for them as well.
“You know, history has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction,” he said. “They keep going, and the cost and the threats to America and to the world keep rising. That’s why, tomorrow, I’m going to send to Congress an urgent budget request to fund America’s national security needs, to support our critical partners, including Israel and Ukraine.”
Those words are important. What the president says has an impact on public opinion, and his strong support, judging by polls over recent days tacking support for Israel, is impacting increasing support for Israel, even among Democrats where support over the years had been steadily declining.
To a large degree, Biden understands Israel and what it is experiencing. He explained the mood of the country very well and succinctly in his Thursday address: In Israel, I saw a people who are strong, determined, resilient, and also angry, in shock, and in deep, deep pain.
But there are also things he doesn’t get: one is the depth of Palestinian support for Hamas, and the other is that a two-state solution at this time is anything but a pipe dream.
In his speech Thursday night, Biden said that Hams’ stated purpose for existing is the destruction of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people.
And then he says something that he repeated in Israel as well, which, out of politeness, Israelis did not correct him on, at least not publicly: “Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people.”
Do Palestinians reject Hamas?
A New York Times report last week said that Biden and others in the administration are repeating with increasing frequency that most Palestinians in Gaza do not support Hams.
Most Israelis, with all their heart, wish that were true. The problem is that they have seen nothing now or over the years to support that assertion. It is not as if Israelis have heard any voices from Gaza or the West Bank saying that the massacres were not in their name and that they reject this type of brutality.
“Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people,” Biden said. Yet, Hamas won legislative elections the last time they were held in 2006, and, according to a Palsiantinan Center for Policy and Survey Research poll in March, Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh would win a presidential election in one held. In fact, one of the reasons Abbas has not held another election since 2006 — that is 17 years ago- is the knowledge that if one were held, he would have lost to Hamas.
Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people is a lovely thought, but it seems detached from reality to most Israelis.
Another little piece of wishful thinking that Biden continues to throw into his speeches is the idea of a two-state solution.
Biden knows Israel. Biden understands it. Bidens has witnessed what Israel just went through. Does he really think that the Israelis are in a two-state-solution mood right now?
Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the Palestinians have had a mini-state in Gaza. Israelis all saw in Simchat Torah how that worked out. Does anyone really think that the Israelis are now going to say that since this worked out so well in Gaza, we want to duplicate that now in Judea and Samaria?
The Simchat Torah massacre is forcing Israel to rethink ideas that have become ingrained. For example, that a sophisticated fence can keep you safe, that it is possible to live with a genocidal neighbor a kilometer from your communities, and that advanced technology can answer security needs.
The two-state solution is such an idea as well. Perhaps it’s an idea whose time might come, but not now or in the foreseeable future. To a certain degree, it is understandable why Biden wants to keep it alive — he wants to keep alive some kind of diplomatic horizon. But this isn’t a realistic one — not now. And to keep trying to keep it alive is only creating illusions that, when they burst, will create even more frustration.
The Simchat Torah massacre changed everything. The rhetoric of world leaders should reflect those changes. Biden knows there is no chance for a two-state solution now, so why feed the fantasy?