Reading through the news about Israel this morning, I immediately had the image of Gulliver being tied down by the Lilliputians come to my mind. It’s not an apt comparison at all, really, not if you know the plot of Jonathan Swift’s 18th-Century satire. But it came to mind nevertheless, because it seems like so many forces are coming together to tie Israel down and prevent them from recklessly invading Gaza without having a clear plan.
Right off the top, there’s a reason this story about evacuation plans for Americans in the Middle East is running on the nation’s front pages. It’s being reported not just because the planning is going on. The Biden administration wants Americans to understand their security is at risk, that there is a cost to giving strong support to Israel, and that they’re justified in urging restraint.
The Biden administration is preparing for the possibility that hundreds of thousands of American citizens will require evacuation from the Middle East if the bloodshed in Gaza cannot be contained, according to four officials familiar with the U.S. government’s contingency planning.
It also puts pressure on Israel to be responsive to our concerns. But if that shot across the bow wasn’t clear, there is this:
The US has intelligence that Iranian-backed militia groups are planning to ramp up attacks against US forces in the Middle East, as Iran seeks to capitalize on the backlash in the region to US support for Israel, according to multiple US officials.
The militia groups have already launched multiple drone attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria.
But the US now has specific intelligence that those same groups could escalate even further as the war between Israel and Hamas continues.
There are “red lights flashing everywhere,” a US official in the region told CNN.
And if Israel still doesn’t get the point, there’s a message from President Barack Obama.
But even as we support Israel, we should also be clear that how Israel prosecutes this fight against Hamas matters. In particular, it matters — as President Biden has repeatedly emphasized — that Israel’s military strategy abides by international law, including those laws that seek to avoid, to every extent possible, the death or suffering of civilian populations. Upholding these values is important for its own sake — because it is morally just and reflects our belief in the inherent value of every human life. Upholding these values is also vital for building alliances and shaping international opinion — all of which are critical for Israel’s long-term security…
…the world is watching closely as events in the region unfold, and any Israeli military strategy that ignores the human costs could ultimately backfire. Already, thousands of Palestinians have been killed in the bombing of Gaza, many of them children. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. The Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water and electricity to a captive civilian population threatens not only to worsen a growing humanitarian crisis; it could further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.
But, in case Israel wants to run headlong into Gaza anyway, the Biden administration wants everyone to know that they are not prepared and don’t have a viable plan. This is from a New York Times article:
The Biden administration is concerned that Israel lacks achievable military objectives in Gaza, and that the Israel Defense Forces are not yet ready to launch a ground invasion with a plan that can work, senior administration officials said.
In phone conversations with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has stressed the need for careful consideration of how Israeli forces might conduct a ground invasion of Gaza, where Hamas maintains intricate tunnel networks under densely populated areas.
Biden administration officials insisted that the United States had not told Israel what to do and still supported the ground invasion. But the Pentagon has sent a three-star Marine, Lt. Gen. James Glynn, along with other officers to help the Israelis with the challenges of fighting an urban war.
And, as you can see from the following screenshot taken from the website of the Times of Israel, the message has been received.
But it’s not just America. France came up with an idea out of left field to tie Israel down.
French President Emmanuel Macron proposed on Tuesday that an international coalition fighting against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria be widened to include the fight against the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.
Macron gave no detail on how the U.S.-led coalition of dozens of countries, of which Israel is not a member, could be involved.
Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Macron stressed that France and Israel shared terrorism as their “common enemy”.
Here, France is waving the potential for a true international coalition to assist them in eliminating Hamas.
Macron’s office said the idea was to draw inspiration from the [anti-ISIS] coalition and that France was available to discuss with Israel and partners what could be relevant against Hamas.
“The international coalition against Daesh does not limit itself to operations on the ground, but is also involved in the training of Iraqi forces, the sharing of information between partners, and the fight against terrorism funding,” it said.
Such an offer cannot easily be spurned, but France isn’t offering it for free. They want a pause before an invasion to negotiate for hostages, some of whom are French nationals. Macron is also calling for a “humanitarian truce” to allow international aid to flow into Gaza, and he wants Israel to allow for a political solution and a return to discussions about a two-state solution.
Now, France and America are not Lilliputians. They are world powers and permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. But you can see how they’re binding Israel and preventing it from launching an all-out ground offensive. And Israel’s defense forces (the IDF) have noticed:
The Israel Defense Forces believes that in order to attain the government’s stated objectives in the war against the Hamas terror group, the military must begin its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip sooner rather than later, The Times of Israel learned Monday…
…The Times of Israel learned that, after 16 days of airstrikes, the IDF has told the government that it is fully prepared for a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, and believes it can achieve the goals set out for it, even at the risk of heavy casualties to soldiers, and amid ongoing attacks by Hezbollah in the north.
But the military fears that the government may not ever give the order to begin the ground offensive, or postpone it for a lengthy period…
…The army is concerned that further hostage releases by Hamas could lead the political leadership to delay a ground incursion or even halt it midway.
Of course, the political leadership is under enormous pressure from its international allies not to launch a ground offensive, at least for the time being. And this must be a source of tremendous consternation because it makes Israel look weak, which is widely thought as fatal in the Middle East. But unless Israel wants to find out what true political isolation looks like, they cannot afford to ignore this pressure.
There simply isn’t the stomach to watch Israel level Gaza, which is basically what’s required to get to Hamas since they have an extensive underground tunnel system and are otherwise mixed in with the civilian population.
Meanwhile, the rocket fire from Gaza into Israel cities and towns continues unabated, making it incredibly difficult to explain continued restraint to the disillusioned Israeli people.
This is the situation Benjamin Netanyahu created and it is unfathomable that he be allowed to continue in power.