Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Bond Is Breaking

David Ignatius writes that the relationship between Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu is pretty tense:

As the war in Gaza grinds on, President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are locked in a public quarrel about military strategy, political leadership and even casualty numbers. Like past disputes in the relationship, this one will probably be resolved short of an open break — but it’s a tense moment.

The most visible disagreement has been about Netanyahu’s plan to attack Hamas’s remaining stronghold in Rafah along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. Netanyahu and a broad range of other Israeli officials believe that destroying the four Hamas battalions there, with about 3,000 fighters, is essential to break its military control in the territory.

Biden said in an interview with MSNBC this past weekend that Rafah was a “red line,” but it wasn’t clear just what that meant. Last month, Biden said Israel shouldn’t attack Rafah until it had a “credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety” of more than 1 million Palestinian refugees who have been driven there by the fighting, according to a White House summary of the conversation. Administration officials say they still haven’t seen such a plan.

“We’ll go there,” Netanyahu shot back on Sunday, adding: “You know, I have a red line. You know what the red line is? That October 7 doesn’t happen again. Never happens again.” A senior Israeli official underlined that position in an interview on Wednesday. “If the administration says, ‘Never do Rafah,’ that won’t work. … You can’t do 80 percent of the job.”

But it will happen again. That's the history of the Israel and Palestine. And, now, the Netanyahu coalition is falling apart:

A deeper disagreement is about whether Netanyahu and his right-wing government really have united the country behind a clear endgame for the conflict. U.S. intelligence analysts were openly skeptical of Netanyahu’s leadership prospects in their annual threat assessment, delivered to Congress this week.

“Netanyahu’s viability as a leader as well as his governing coalition of far-right and ultraorthodox parties that pursued hardline policies on Palestinian and security issues may be in jeopardy,” the threat assessment noted. “Distrust of Netanyahu’s ability to rule has deepened and broadened. … A different, more moderate government is a possibility.”

That’s unusually blunt language for a public intelligence report, and Israeli officials protested what they saw as an effort to meddle in Israeli internal politics by, in effect, “weaponizing” the intelligence reporting. Netanyahu’s team was already peeved about what it saw as an attempt by Vice President Harris to drive a wedge into Israeli politics when she said on CBS News on Sunday: “It’s important to distinguish and to not conflate the Israeli government with the Israeli people.”

An important distinction to keep in mind.

Image: The NewArab


Rural said...

I would submit that the treatment of the millions civilians in Gaza which now far outweighs the harm caused by Hamas almost guarantees that it will 'happen again'!

Lorne said...

Patience with the Israeli leadership is clearly wearing thin, Owen. There was an article on the NYT in which Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for regime change in Israel, i.e., the replacing Netanyahu, and an article in The Guardian calls Biden's closeness with Netanyahu a strategic mistake that is going to cost Biden a great deal:

Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, Rural, I believe you're right.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Lorne. Clearly, Netanyahu has outlived his time.

jrkrideau said...

A rough translation of the various new and columnist items:

"It's an election year and Bibi's genocide in Gaza is not helping our polls.

We are already having to do an emergency shut down of TicToK (The US has wanted to do this for a long time but the situation is more urgent now) and Bibi is becoming really toxic. Let's do what we always do and organize a coup.

That's it. A new face and a bit of policy change in Israel and we will bounce right back in the polls."

I heard a rumour the other day that this was why Benny Gantz was visiting Washington. The rumour said that Gantz was perfectly happy to become P.M. but he totally agreed with Bibi's Gaza policies. Back to the drawing board for the Biden crew.

Owen Gray said...

Things never seem to get better there, jrk.