The Conspicuous Absence of the American President from the Israeli Election Campaign

In Israel’s elections last year, Likud billboards displayed pictures of Benjamin Netanyahu next to Donald Trump to highlight the incumbent prime minister’s success as a custodian of the alliance with the U.S. Such electioneering moves are not new, writes Shmuel Rosner; Israelis value their alliance with the U.S., and want a leader who will handle the alliance deftly. What’s more remarkable is that Joe Biden has not been much discussed in the lead-up to next week’s vote:

There’s a simple explanation, and a more complicated one, for this unusual absence. First, the simple: Israelis do not yet know whether President Biden will prove to be a friend, like his predecessor, or a thorn in their side, like the president he previously served under. Netanyahu cannot yet oppose him because so far he has done nothing objectionable, and alienating the White House for no good reason is beyond the pale. . . . The opposite is also true: Biden has not yet proved himself to be Israel’s friend as president, and so the prime minister’s rivals must be careful not to portray themselves as his admirers.

The more complicated explanation concerns America’s interest in the Middle East and the country’s relative irrelevance to much that is happening in the region. The United States was unsuccessful in its halfhearted quest to contain Iranian expansion; it was missing in action in the Syrian civil war; it bet on wrong horses during the so-called Arab Spring; it has alienated the Saudis, let Russia take over Libya, and did nothing of value to resolve the Palestinian issue. The list goes on.

If America’s leaders are just tired of being involved in Israel’s never-ending political process, I can’t fully blame them. We Israelis are all tired of it, too. . . . In more than one way, the policy of the Biden administration seems to be moving along a trajectory that assumes a less central role for Middle East affairs in America’s foreign policy. So it’s quite possible that Israel’s needs are becoming less urgent and that who leads Israel matters less in the eyes of the United States. In such case, the proper election question for Israelis is no longer “Which leader could better deal with America?” but “Which leader can better manage without America?”

Read more at New York Times

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, Israeli Election 2021, Joseph Biden, US-Israel relations

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7