Are U.S. Efforts to Restrain Israel Part of a Plan to Make a Grand Bargain with Saudi Arabia?

Trying to make sense of Joe Biden’s threat to withhold arms from Israel if it attempts a full-scale operation in Rafah, Gerald Steinberg argues that the president is not primarily motivated by humanitarian concerns or by a desire to court hard-left and Arab-American voters, whom he has most likely already lost. It’s difficult to say with any certainty what is in the minds of the president and his closest advisers, but Steinberg’s alternative explanation seems plausible:

A look at the details suggests a carefully planned strategy, under the heading of a grand bargain for the Middle East. This dream scenario has been in the background (and at times, foreground) of administration policies for months. The essential elements include “irrevocable commitment” [from Israel] to Palestinian statehood and “end of conflict,” large-scale Israeli withdrawal on the West Bank, and a formal Saudi-Israeli peace agreement echoing the Abraham Accords.

In other words, Biden and Secretary of State Blinken are aiming for the diplomatic equivalent of a moon shot, the Nobel Peace Prize, and, not incidentally, victory in the November elections. The script for redrawing the map was written by Tom Friedman, the veteran New York Times columnist who has been promoting versions of this for decades.

And it begins in Rafah, through orchestrating a stalemate and ceasefire that prevents Israel from totally defeating and uprooting Hamas as the dominant Palestinian terror organization and the rulers of Gaza.

The problem (and it is a very big one) is that the entire scenario is built on a foundation of wishful thinking, not history and political realism. . . . Israelis, including Prime Minister Netanyahu’s most vocal critics, know that withholding munitions to prevent the IDF from entering Rafah and recognizing a virtual Palestinian state will not end 76 years of Palestinian rejectionism. More likely, the determination to attack Israel will increase, accompanied by Iranian support. The addition of a Saudi-Israeli peace package will not change this reality.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict