Biden Administration Exploits Divisions in Israel’s Wartime Government Amid Gaza Conflict

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During a 1971 trip to Israel, then-future Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke met with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, a meeting he described as a “life-changing event.” He said Israel was “an inspiration, a small lone democracy in the Middle East.” Upon his return, he warned, “If the bell tolls for Israel, it won’t just toll for Israel — it will toll for all mankind.”

The bell is indeed tolling for the Jewish state, but rather than recognizing the global implications of this moment, the Biden administration is exploiting the splintered state of Israel’s wartime coalition.

After Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) March call for new elections in Israel and President Joe Biden’s recent decision to halt the delivery of critical weapons failed to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from invading Rafah, the administration pivoted to a new strategy: divide and conquer.

Israel’s three-member war cabinet consists of the prime minister, Minister of Defense (and fellow member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party) Yoav Gallant, and former Israel Defense Force Gen. and main opposition leader Benny Gantz. Last Wednesday, Gallant, who has been in close contact with Biden’s inner circle in recent weeks, openly attacked Netanyahu via an extraordinary prerecorded televised address. At issue is the post-war governance of Gaza.

Gallant demanded that Netanyahu rule out Israeli military or civil control of Gaza when the war ends. According to Gallant, “Palestinian entities and international actors must establish ‘day after’ governance.” This would include the Palestinian Authority, the Fatah-controlled government body that ruled Gaza before losing the 2006 elections to Hamas. Given the PA’s embrace of terrorism and its history of corruption, this is a very dangerous idea.

It could also include the Egyptians, whose credibility as an honest broker took a big hit last week when IDF forces identified 700 tunnel shafts in Rafah and 50 working tunnels that connect the Gaza Strip to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. This discovery belies Egypt’s public hostility toward Hamas due to its links to the Muslim Brotherhood and their insistence that they destroyed the extensive tunnel network between 2011 and 2014.

The tunnels lay beneath the “Philadelphi Corridor,” the 14-mile-long strip of land that separates Gaza from Egypt. The Egyptian government has repeatedly scoffed at Israeli claims that Hamas uses these tunnels to smuggle weapons into (and Hamas militants out of) Gaza.

At any rate, Gallant referenced a war plan the Israeli Defense Department had presented to the Cabinet in October that stated, “It will be necessary to destroy Hamas battalions, while simultaneously working to establish a local, non-hostile Palestinian governing alternative.” (Is there such a thing as a nonhostile Palestinian governing alternative?) He lamented that although he has “raised this issue consistently in the Cabinet,” he has “received no response.”

Netanyahu immediately responded to Gallant’s remarks. He said he was “not prepared to switch from Hamastan to Fatahstan.” He pointed out that “as long as Hamas remains intact, no other party will step in to manage civilian affairs in Gaza, certainly not the Palestinian Authority. Eighty percent of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria [biblical names for the land inside the West Bank] support the terrible massacre of Oct. 7.”

Naturally, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius considers Gallant’s proposal eternally reasonable. He noted that “Gallant’s approach aligns with that of the Biden administration, which has been urging Netanyahu for months to start building Palestinian forces that can eventually take over security responsibility in Gaza.”

Ignatius wrote that a U.S. official described Gallant as an “indispensable” problem solver in the increasingly tense debate about how to end the war in Gaza. He added that there’s “been growing talk in Israel and the United States that Gallant could be a future prime minister.” Might that be the incentive behind Gallant’s inexplicable cooperation with Biden officials?

Three days later, Gantz delivered a similar, but stronger, public ultimatum to Netanyahu. According to the Jerusalem Post, Gantz vowed to “withdraw from the government, turn to the people, and form a government that can bring about a real victory” if Netanyahu fails to come up with “a comprehensive strategic plan for the ‘day after’ Hamas in Gaza” by June 8. (The next scheduled elections in Israel are set for 2026.)

Gantz demanded the plan address the following six objectives:

  1. The return of the Israeli hostages.
  2. The demobilization of Hamas and the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.
  3. Determining a governing alternative in the Strip.
  4. The return of the residents from northern Gaza by Sept. 1.
  5. Promoting normalization.
  6. Adopting an outline for creating a standardized Israeli national service.

The Biden administration is obviously delighted by and taking advantage of the fissures within the Israeli unity government. But they would do well to understand that the Oct. 7 massacre was not merely an assault on Israel. It was an attack on Western civilization brought to us by barbarians who seek our annihilation as well as Israel’s.

Shortly after the war began, Netanyahu wrote in an op-ed that the world was at a “turning point.” He said unless the civilized world is “willing to fight the barbarians,” we will live in a “world of fear and darkness.”

Hawke’s words bear repeating: “If the bell tolls for Israel, it won’t just toll for Israel — it will toll for all mankind.”

Elizabeth Stauffer
Elizabeth Stauffer
Commentary Writer. Elizabeth Stauffer is a Heritage Foundation Academy fellow and an unapologetic conservative.

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