Iran and its proxies gloat while the U.S. and Israel squabble
Opinion

Iran and its proxies gloat while the U.S. and Israel squabble

Max L. Kleinman

Max Kleinman of Fairfield is the CEO emeritus of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest and president of the Fifth Commandment Foundation.

The West was unified about Israel’s war aims after the October 7 attacks. Those aims were defeating Hamas militarily so October 7 couldn’t recur and freeing the hostages.

The unity lasted several weeks as Hamas’s strategy paid dividends.

It was a cynical win-win scenario for Hamas. We kill Israelis — a win. Palestinian civilians, whom we use as human shields, are killed in the crossfire — another win. Humanitarian aid, which we control and seize for our benefit, causing malnutrition — another win.

That’s because a largely compliant media documents all the suffering and records the casualty figures provided by Hamas’s Health Ministry. So, for example, the New York Times reports 500 fatalities from an Israeli missile on a hospital when the actual death toll was one-tenth of that, and caused by an errant Hamas missile. Hamas exaggerates the number of casualties to boost its propaganda. Yet the media dutifully report its figure, 30,000 casualties, which President Biden repeated in a recent interview — that doesn’t differentiate between civilians and 13,000 Hamas combatants killed.

While any civilian deaths are regrettable, the IDF has done a commendable job of mitigating collateral damage, according to West Point’s expert on urban warfare, John Sinclair. For context, U.S. and Iraqi forces needed eight months to defeat ISIS in Mosul, a city of two million. ISIS had 5,000 combatants. The civilian death toll was 9,000 — an almost two to one ratio. The Israelis faced 30,000 Hamas fighters and demolished 18 out of its 24 brigades while confronting hundreds of kilometers of tunnels buried under homes, hospitals, schools, mosques and a compliant UNWRA headquarters.

Now Israel wants to compete the job by attacking Hamas’s last stronghold in Rafah, where it holds the remaining hostages. Israel agreed to provide safe spaces for the civilians forced to live in Rafah. Accordingly, Israel has prepared a plan to do so, which will be shared with the U.S. before any attack commences.

That was the scenario last week before the pushback from the U.S. First, President Biden tried to differentiate Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government from the people of Israel, as if they seized power from a coup d’etat. Then Biden accused Netanyahu of doing Israel more harm than good.

This was followed by Senator Chuck Schumer’s irresponsible call for new elections during wartime. This, after accusations of foreign election tampering, was the refrain from both parties over the last two presidential cycles. Moreover, he stated that if the election, in effect, did not result in Netanyahu’s defeat, then the “U.S. will have no choice” but to leverage its aid to suit the U.S.’s policy choice, presumably a pathway to a Palestinian state.

This was unprecedented interference in a foreign sovereign’s body politic, which was uniformly condemned by Netanyahu’s political rivals. Is Israel a colony of the U.S., and must it comport with its imperial master’s command?

The administration does not have a sense of Israel’s unity behind its war goals — defeating Hamas and freeing the hostages. This has not changed one iota. Rafah stands in the way of achieving these goals. Why isn’t pressure applied on Hamas to surrender and release the hostages, making attacking Rafah moot? Why isn’t pressure applied on Egypt, which receives billions in U.S. aid, to open its border to temporarily relocate the Gazan refugees?

What is particularly disappointing is Schumer’s role in pouring fuel on the fire. He has been a stalwart supporter of Israel for decades, gave a magnificent speech in the Senate on antisemitism, and loudly endorsed Israel’s war aims at the rally I attended with 290,000 of my closest friends. Hakeem Jeffries, who also spoke at the rally with Mike Johnson, reinforced Israel’s need to attack Rafah when questioned after Schumer’s latest speech.

Schumer was one of the few Democrats who voted against Obama’s regrettable nuclear agreement with Iran. He remarked at the time that his surname came from the Hebrew word “Shomer” — watchman. He was watching out for Israel’s interest. Is he now the shomer for the Democrats’ electoral prospects in the fall, with its left wing increasingly anti-Israel and some members even pro-Hamas? Is Michigan watching?

Then there’s the pathway for a Palestinian state that’s being vigorously pushed by the U.S. and the E.U. At best, discussions of this kind should be deferred until there’s a modicum of calm and stability. But the Israelis have no appetite for a Palestinian state after witnessing the catastrophe unleashed by the Palestinian state on its southern border.

Meanwhile, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Iran are relishing this infighting between two longtime allies. The “daylight” exhibited between the U.S. and Israel will only encourage their enemies to further their aggressions and destabilize the Middle East. As shown during World War II with Stalin, differences are not aired publicly but discussed privately. There was ample time for the Cold War after the Germans and Japanese were vanquished.

Like after 9/11, the threat comes from Islamic radicalism. The sooner we focus our energies with a unity of effort against Iran and its proxies, the better. And the isolationist wing of the Republican party must understand that the homeland is not immune from attacks from radical Islam, led by Iran and its newly found allies, Russia and China. That’s why Congress must pass the arms defense bill for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

As under Roosevelt, we and NATO must be the “arsenal of democracy.” We cannot let disagreements give comfort and support to our mutual enemies. Let Israel finish the job.

Max Kleinman of Fairfield was the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest from 1995 to 2014. He is the president of the Fifth Commandment Foundation and consultant for the Jewish Community Legacy Project.

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