A ceasefire between Hamas and Israel went into effect at 2:00 a.m. local time, following a speech by President Biden announcing that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to a “mutual, unconditional ceasefire.” This sounds odd, considering conflicting reports that Hamas has conditioned its ceasefire on Israel 1) not evicting some Palestinian tenants from the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah (problematic, as they have not been paying rent to their Jewish landlords), and 2) not sending Israeli soldiers into the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (also problematic, especially if Arab terrorists throw rocks and fireworks at Israeli police from that location, like they did less than two weeks ago). This new ceasefire comes after Hamas has attacked Israel with about 3,700 missiles and at least six drones since May 10. Israel has also faced rockets from Lebanon in at least three separate incidents, as well as from Syria, and at least one drone from Syria or Iraq armed and dispatched by Iran, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It remains to be seen how history will remember the Biden administration for its response to this 11-day conflagration, but it has certainly sent Israel some not-so-supportive messages. Biden jokingly threatened to run over a reporter who asked him about his policy towards Israel, and he thanked chronic Israel-basher Rep. Rashida Tlaib for being “a fighter.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed former President Trump’s Abraham Accords, stating that they were “dead on arrival” and not “constructive … to bring an end to the longstanding conflict in the Middle East,” ignoring that 1) this prognosis is a self-fulfilling prophecy given the Biden administration’s “review” of the Abraham Accords since January, 2) the Trump administration teed up four more accords for the Biden administration to finish, yet the latter chose not to, and 3) two of those four (Saudi Arabia and Indonesia), if realized, would have tectonically shifted the Middle East conflict by marginalizing the intransigent Palestinian and Iranian camps. But whatever.
Recent rhetoric of Democrats favoring a ceasefire at all costs, opposing arms sales to Israel, and defaming Israel with labels of apartheid and more shows that many Democrats are increasingly trying to unwind Israel–U.S. relations.
U.S. pressure may have forced Israel into a premature ceasefire. Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu stating that “we’re not standing with a stopwatch” and that Israel reconquering Gaza is “an open possibility,” as of this writing we have a ceasefire. If it holds, the ceasefire would cut against the wishes of the Israeli public, with 80 percent opposed, according to Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States. Oren and others maintain that at the very least Israel should continue to fight Hamas until significant deterrence is restored. Others like MK Gideon Sa’ar (leader of the New Hope party) maintain that a ceasefire not accompanied by structural changes in Hamas and its ability to wage war in the future will significantly harm Israel.
But it looks like the armchair quarterback Democrats have won out for now. More and more Democrats reflexively, incessantly called for a ceasefire. Biden had reportedly pushed for a “significant de-escalation … on the path to a ceasefire,” and the White House pushed for Israel to “wind down” its Gaza campaign. Twenty-eight Senate Democrats and 138 House Democrats have called for a ceasefire. Some Democrats had been more vocal than others. For example, House Speaker Pelosi called a ceasefire “necessary,” which according to the Hill was in response to progressive pressure. Sen. Bernie Sanders called for an “immediate ceasefire,” while Sen. Chuck Schumer, long touted as pro-Israel, said he wanted “to see a ceasefire reached quickly.”
In contrast, over 100 House Republicans wrote a letter to President Biden stating that Israel has “an unequivocal right to self-defense.” The lone Republican who had supported a ceasefire days earlier (Sen. Todd Young) has changed course, astutely realizing that it could be premature and/or strengthen Hamas.
Democrats have increasingly sided against Israel on arms sales, which of course hinders Israel’s ability to fight Hamas. While President Biden promised to “replenish” Israel’s Iron Dome supplies in his brief Thursday night speech, earlier in the day House Democrats successfully voted 218-209 against a Republican-initiated measure that would provide Israel with emergency funding to the Iron Dome. And while the Biden administration approved $735 million in precision arms sales to Israel earlier this week, a growing wave of Democrats in Congress has been trying to stop the sale. On Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a resolution aiming to block the sale, while Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, Betty McCollum, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jayapal, and André Carson introduced a similar resolution in the House days before. The House resolution is sponsored by Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), American Muslims for Palestine, and IfNotNow, among many others.
Democrats have scored additional victories in weakening Israel’s defensive capabilities. House Democrats voted 217-209 to reject applying sanctions to Hamas. Sen. Bernie Sanders blocked a Senate resolution brought by Sen. Rick Scott and 30 other Republican senators introduced days before that merely provided rhetorical U.S. support for Israel and condemnation for Hamas.
Progressives have used the current conflict between Hamas and Israel to defame Israel by slinging it with the “apartheid” canard and other defamatory comments. Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have all called Israel an “apartheid” state. Tlaib, of course, has piled on, calling Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians an “apartheid system” and “apartheid, plain and simple.” These accusations are of course false, meant to isolate and destroy Israel. And there’s other name-calling, too. Sen. Sanders claims Israel, in its war of self-defense, is causing “unconscionable” “devastation” and “human rights violations.” Rep. Omar says Israel is committing “crimes against humanity.”
Right now, it’s unclear how the new ceasefire will play out. President Biden has now promised that the ceasefire in Gaza will be orchestrated by the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, and will prevent Hamas from restocking its weapons. Good luck with that. If history is any guide, rather than creating durable deterrence to Hamas, the ceasefire will merely focus on cessation of conflict in the immediate short term. While the Biden administration approved the sale of weapons to Israel, will it veto any legislation that seeks to unwind this sale or others? Will the administration follow through with its promise to fund the Iron Dome? Given that the Obama administration stopped delivery of Apache helicopters and Hellfire missiles to Israel in the past, it will be no surprise if the Biden administration caves to progressive demands within his party.