Why Israel Needs to Get Smart

The Right likes to ceaselessly chirp that Israel has a right to defend itself. But I don’t see anyone saying that it doesn’t. The real question is whether what Israel has been doing in Gaza is effective self-defense. Israel has managed to lose the moral high ground even faster than the U.S. did after 9/11 and likely is fueling the fires of future terrorism. This is not smart self-defense. Fight smarter, not harder.

And this puts the United States in a precarious place.  I think on the whole the Biden Administration has walked a fine line, supporting Israel while trying to mitigate its worst impulses. Now the Biden Administration is urging a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza so that people can get food, medicine, fuel, clean water, and maybe more of the injured can be removed.

Politico reports that the White House thinks Netanyahu is on his way out. “Joe Biden and top aides have discussed the likelihood that Benjamin Netanyahu’s political days are numbered — and the president has conveyed that sentiment to the Israeli prime minister in a recent conversation.” The Daily Beast reports that Biden and Netanyahu probably are headed for a breakup:

While the immediate support the U.S. showed for Israel in the wake of Hamas’ wanton atrocities of Oct. 7 was humane and appropriate, founded (as New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait has noted) in President Joe Biden’s moral decency, that very same Biden character trait will very likely soon require a rift with Netanyahu.

That is because the Israeli prime minister and the extremists in his government are fundamentally bad actors who have contributed greatly to the current crisis.

It is the profound flaws of judgment and instincts of Bibi & Co. that will require Biden and his team to demand a significant change of course by Israel. Should that change not come, it will then be the deep-seated values of Biden and his team and their clear sense of U.S. national interests that will require what will be a major adjustment in U.S. policy.

Edward Luce of the Financial Times writes that Netanyahu is an albatross around Biden’s neck.

Joe Biden has hitched his fortunes to a man — Benjamin Netanyahu — who is co-creator of the ghastly dilemma with which Israel is now faced. The problem with Biden’s bearhug strategy is that he has no veto on the Israeli prime minister’s actions. The tool Biden wields is influence. Everything about Netanyahu suggests that behind-the-scenes suasion is not a method that works.

I don’t know that Joe Biden “hitched his fortunes” to Netanyahu but to Israel, and very likely the White House would be just fine if there were a new Prime Minister sooner rather than later. But yes, I think Joe Biden’s support for Israel is in part about trying to influence it to not go crazy and massacre civilian Palestinians, but that doesn’t seem to have worked.

In other newsYesterday Senate Republicans finally had enough with Tommy Tuberville. 

Republican senators angrily challenged Sen. Tommy Tuberville on his blockade of almost 400 military officers Wednesday evening, taking over the Senate floor for more than four hours to call for individual confirmation votes after a monthslong stalemate.

Tuberville, R-Ala., stood and objected to each nominee — 61 times total, when the night was over — extending his holds on the military confirmations and promotions with no immediate resolution in sight. But the extraordinary confrontation between Republicans, boiling over almost nine months after Tuberville first announced the holds over a Pentagon abortion policy, escalated the standoff as Defense Department officials have repeatedly said the backlog of officials needing confirmation could endanger national security.

“Why are we putting holds on war heroes?” asked Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, himself a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. “I don’t understand.”