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Beware of Dangerous Advice: An Urgent Letter to President Biden

They’re giving Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran propaganda victories they don’t deserve, weakening Israel and America, and holding Israel to standards America and other democracies never meet.
[additional-authors]
March 17, 2024
U.S. President Joe Biden (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images); Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images); U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Dear President Biden,

Beware! Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and your favorite columnist (according to him) – Thomas Friedman – are giving you terrible advice about the Middle East mess. They misread the geopolitical situation, your political needs, and Israeli politics. It’s a counterproductive trainwreck: the more they bash Israel, the more they weaken America and your re-election prospects; and the more they bash Benjamin Netanyahu, for the wrong reasons, the more they boost his.

First, a thank you. We Israelis appreciate your post-October 7 “Don’t – Don’t” speeches – and America’s steady flow of support and weaponry since. You faced a monumental attack on America and the West, not just Israel – and rose to the challenge.

Second, I write as an occasional critic of Benjamin Netanyahu, who, like you appreciates the good he has done for Israel, especially economically, but considers him a walking advertisement for term limits. I encouraged him to gracefully retire – with a presidential pardon – in a 2017 column. After October 7, I suggested he announce a resignation date, soon, so none of his military actions would be misread as political. Still, like most Israelis, I don’t need outsiders telling us that Bibi must go – not least because it rouses his base.

My biggest worry is that Blinken, Schumer and Friedman endanger America and the world. They’re giving Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran’s arc-of-evil propaganda victories they don’t deserve, while holding Israel to standards America and other democracies never meet.

My biggest worry is that Blinken, Schumer and Friedman endanger America and the world.

Consider Senator Schumer’s speech. We all know that when a Jew starts by “as-a-Jewing” Israelis, calling himself a “shomer” – guardian –of Israel…. buckle your seatbelts! Schumer demanded “a military operation in Rafah that prioritizes civilian life.” That fascinates me as an American historian. Please, consult America’s top military historians.  Ask them if in World War II, or Iraq, or ever, America ordered soldiers to “prioritize” the enemy’s “civilian life.” In Vietnam, the army destroyed villages to save them. In Mosul – under Barack Obama – the army killed thousands of friendly civilians while saving them from ISIL. Similarly, in Gaza, Israel is being forced by Hamas to kill many unfriendly civilians and some innocents to save Israel, Gaza, and the world, from Hamas.

Consider convening the Joint Chief of Staffs, proposing Schumer’s new doctrine – teaching our soldiers to “prioritize” the enemy’s civilian life. They’ll resist, because every democratic soldier’s main mission – including the Commander-in-chief’s — is to protect your fellow citizens first.

Alternatively, consult with Spencer, Luttwak, and Clinton. John Spencer, West Point’s urban war strategist who served two tours in Iraq, concluded in Newsweek that “Israel has taken more measures to avoid needless civilian harm than virtually any other nation that’s fought an urban war,” including the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. The legendary strategist, Edward Luttwak, could summarize his Tablet article explaining how intractable a foe Israel faces on the “crowded urban battlefield” Hamas created, and how Israel defied American predictions by minimizing IDF casualties and collateral damage.

Finally, your friend Hillary Clinton can remind you how much the Obama Administration – and Tom Friedman – pressured Netanyahu in earlier conflicts to cease-fire and trust Hamas to be pragmatic. And, as she noted on The View, Israel on October 7 was respecting the latest cease-fire the international community imposed, until Hamas broke it – followed by Hezbollah which had long mocked the Second Lebanon War’s cease-fire.

If you doubt these American experts, listen to some candid Palestinians. Fatah deems Hamas “responsible” for having “caused the Nakba [national catastrophe] which our Palestinian people [now] live.” Bassam Eid, a human rights activist, writing in Newsweek challenges his “fellow Palestinians: Stop blaming the Jews – Hamas is starving our brothers and sisters in Gaza.” Eid states courageously that “Hamas’s governance… prioritized violence and killing Jews over the welfare of its population…. I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that the terrorist group Hamas is responsible for the suffering of Gazans.”

Please update Secretary Blinken.  Ask him to renounce his perverse accusation that Israel is using the dehumanization Israelis suffered on October 7th – and are still enduring as kidnapped victims in Hamas’s tunnels — as “a license to dehumanize others.”

Read last week’s article in the anti-Netanyahu Ha’aretz, “Israeli Army Meets Fierce Fighting in Gaza’s Qatari-built Luxury Neighborhood.” You could easily spin it as “Brutal Israelis Destroy Beautiful Palestinian Homes.” But Hamas embedded itself in this neighborhood. And, Ha’aretz reports: “It almost seems as though parts of the neighborhood were built in preparation for the day when IDF forces enter the area. Each building has hiding places and corners beneficial for urban fighting.” Predictably, Israeli forces encountered “heavy fighting,” even as, their officer reported, “we immediately began evacuating all residents to humanitarian areas.”

While injecting some facts, historical perspective and moral balance, it’s ironic that Schumer claims Netanyahu’s “governing vision … is stuck in the past,” then mindlessly demands a two-state solution.

That’s so 1990.

If you endorse a two-state solution, while ignoring Palestinian calls for a no-Jewish-state solution from “the river to the sea,” and forget that the two biggest concessions Israel made — the Oslo peace withdrawals and the Gaza disengagement – helped Palestinian terrorists spill rivers of Israeli blood, who’s the one stuck in the past?

Start getting creative. Champion “two democracies for two peoples.” That stops just pressuring Israel to find the unfindable – the non-suicidal land concession that will satisfy Palestinian exterminationists. Instead it challenges the Palestinians to develop democracy and – trigger warning – take some responsibility. Instead, they keep demanding and winning concessions, and then launch their terror-tantrums and bloodbaths.

What’s happening, you might wonder: How could your smart advisers be so off? Obsessed with “innocent” Gazans, the media is spinning a Sanctimony Cyclone. Inconvenient facts, moral judgments, and geopolitical strategies to protect America from Iranian evil, are swept away by heart-wrenching images and simplistic storylines of vengeful Jews working out their trauma by targeting Palestinian children.

This media mania promotes the Palestinian Putsch, a massive threat to Western civilization and your re-election. Pro-Palestinian thugs keep attacking American icons, while trying to make Jews, Israel, Zionism, radioactive globally.

That’s why Friedman’s latest column accusing Bibi of making Israel radioactive is so perverse. Note how Palestinian goons even targeted celebrities approaching the Academy Awards. How did some respond? They hid their yellow hostage ribbons, to avoid being harassed.

Such hounding of pro-Israel students has become a feature of campus life -and is being replicated in cities coast-to-coast.  I ask Americans: which side are you on? The side which never waves an American flag and violates the sanctity of the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Rockfeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Memorial Sloane Kettering cancer center – let alone the free speech of Zionists?  Or the patriotic flag-wavers supporting America’s democratic ally, Israel?

It’s a counterproductive trainwreck: The more they bash Israel, the more they weaken America and your re-election prospects; and the more they bash Bibi, the more they boost his.

Beware Mr. President: don’t worry so much about Dearborn that you lose Pennsylvania, Florida, and the Jews of Michigan, who if mobilized could balance out self-destructive stay-at-homers, who might re-elect Donald Trump. You know better. Just like you knew in 2020 that middle-class blacks in the South Carolina primary would choose you and not the radicals, why don’t you trust the silenced American majority to reward you for supporting Israel over evil, anti-American, terrorists and their apologists?

It’s time for your inner Scrappy Scrantonian to mobilize decent Americans who don’t want Palestinian goons splashing red paint on the People’s House and disrupting the nation’s business.

This is a matter of principle, standing up for free speech, let alone law-and-order. But it’s also good politics.

It’s obvious. Israel doesn’t just need a clear win – you do too. I wouldn’t want to face Donald Trump having presided over the debacle in Afghanistan, a stalemate in Ukraine, and a catastrophe in Israel. Politically, you should encourage Netanyahu to finish the job effectively, as humanely as possible, but also quickly – for your sake, not just Israel’s.

If you – and frankly, the too-polite American Jewish community – don’t start resisting this Palestinian bullying now, your Democratic National Convention will blow-up in five months in Chicago, a four-hour drive from Dearborn. Unless they start encountering some good old-fashioned American indignation – and blowback – these pro-Palestinian fanatics will make Chicago’s 1968 riots look like King Charles’s coronation by comparison. They will rule the streets and browbeat on the convention floor, using the megaphone effect of social media, combined with the mainstream media’s gullibility and bloodlust, to drown out the story you hope to tell.

Let’s face it. Anyone who has already called you by that ugly libel, “Genocide Joe,” ain’t coming home. Stop thinking you can woo them back.  Mobilize the Democratic base and the Jewish community to push back, to defend American values, and save your campaign from getting upstaged by a vicious, undemocratic, anti-American minority that nevertheless has found a home in today’s Democratic Party.

And yes, read the Israeli room too. Just as each indictment boosted Donald Trump with his core supporters, each outsider attack boosts Bibi Netanyahu with his. It’s not only an instinctive “don’t tread on me” trait Israelis share with many Americans, right and left. In this case, your so-called experts are misreading what Israelis want from this unsought-war and where their frustrations with Netanyahu lie.

Blinken, Schumer, and Friedman project their wartime frustrations with Bibi onto the Israeli people. Most Israelis have noticed that the War Cabinet sidelined Ministers Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, that the trusted army is mostly running the war, and that there is a broad consensus that the IDF must do what it takes to crush Hamas, free the hostages, and restore deterrence, north and south, beyond our borders and house-by-house. True, most Israelis wish Netanyahu had a Day After plan and offered a moral leadership and unity he hasn’t provided for years. But right now, most Israelis worry about winning first.

Rest assured, the political bloodletting and Bibi-bashing will start soon enough. Currently, your interests and Israel’s align in ways too many people close to you miss. Israel, America, and your presidential campaign need a clear, quick, Israeli victory; strong affirmations of support for Israel and disdain for Palestinian thuggery;  and more creative stability-seeking solutions. These new ideas must acknowledge Israel’s scars since Oslo and the Gaza Disengagement. And they must build toward a better Day After — in Gaza, in a new Middle East, with a crushed Hamas, a subdued Hezbollah, a neutralized Houthi threat, a renewed Saudi initiative, and an abashed Iran.

The road to that Joe-Biden-positive future is not through Dearborn or Bibi-bashing but by doubling down on that magical formidable Israeli-American alliance, which you have spent years building and embodying.

On October 7, a conceptzia – conception – about Hamas pragmatism that blinded American policymakers as well as Israelis – fell. Don’t risk the victory you seek on November 5, by falling into a Palestinian-orchestrated, media-manufactured, conceptzia, that hurts Israel – and you too.


Professor Gil Troy, a Senior Fellow in Zionist Thought at the JPPI, the Jewish People Policy Institute, is an American presidential historian and the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People (www.theljp.org).

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