The Gaza War at Six Months: Israel Increasingly Isolated But Resilient

In the aftermath of the horrific October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks, the world united behind Israel. President Joe Biden pledged America’s rock-solid support, sent two aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean, and visited Israel to express America’s support for the Israeli people. There was remarkable political unity in Israel as an Israeli war cabinet was formed on October 11, 2023, and divisive domestic political issues, such as reforming Israel’s Supreme Court, were set aside.

Six months later, Israel’s situation is very different. War fatigue has undermined support for Israel’s efforts to destroy Hamas, especially in Western countries. Although most Israelis reportedly support the war, there have been growing protests to end it so the hostages taken by Hamas can be freed. There also have been efforts to undermine the Israeli government and how it has conducted the war in the United States and Israel.

The Israeli army has made significant progress in the war in Gaza, destroying 20 of Hamas’s original 24 battalions. It plans to soon destroy Hamas’s remaining battalions in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. However, there is strong pressure from the West to end the war because Western leaders and audiences have succumbed to constant scenes of destroyed cities in Gaza, women and children digging themselves out of rubble, and reports of famine. Hamas and their supporters in the West have expertly manipulated press coverage of the war to blame this humanitarian catastrophe on Israel. Few mainstream media reports mention that Hamas started and is sustaining this conflict. The media will also not report that the reason Gazans are hungry is because heavily armed Hamas terrorists are stealing the aid sent into the enclave.

Growing demonstrations in Israel to end the war so hostages can be freed were part of Hamas’s original plan. Hamas knew Israelis value the lives of their citizens and that many would press to end the war early to secure the release of Israeli hostages, even if this meant not destroying Hamas or holding it accountable for the October 7 terrorist attacks.

Western nations and the United Nations condemning Israeli actions to defend themselves against Palestinian terrorists are not new. The UN has established itself as a stridently anti-Israel organization and has passed hundreds of resolutions in the UN Security Council and other UN bodies condemning Israel and questioning its right to exist. For decades, the United States used its veto power in the UN Security Council to block resolutions critical of Israel and its actions to defend itself. That changed on March 25, 2023, when the Biden administration abstained on a UN Security Council resolution demanding a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war without requiring Hamas to release any hostages.

The Israeli government and its supporters in the United States were outraged that the Biden administration did not block this unbalanced Security Council resolution. This unprecedented decision reflected a larger Biden administration agenda to sacrifice Israel’s security for domestic political reasons.

There has been a growing rift between many Democratic leaders, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and Israel for some time. The Obama and Biden administrations had strong disagreements with Prime Minister Netanyahu and especially resented his opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the JCPOA. Despite Biden expressing his support for Israel and the Netanyahu government in the aftermath of the October 7 terrorist attacks, there were often caveats and tentativeness in Biden’s statements of support. Last December, I wrote in American Greatness that Biden was turning on Netanyahu to win the 2024 U.S. presidential election because of opposition to the war from his progressive supporters and Muslim voters in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Six months after the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the start of the war, U.S.-Israel relations are at a historic low. Instead of discussing its differences with Israel privately—the appropriate way to deal with a close U.S. ally—the Biden administration has been pressuring Israel to end the war through public condemnation, lectures, and press leaks. Although the Netanyahu government has stated that a two-state solution peace plan is off the table for the foreseeable future, the Biden administration continues to publicly promote this idea in the press and with other Middle East states.

Biden officials have complained publicly about how Israel has conducted the war and blamed it for the humanitarian situation in Gaza. There have been many reports of tense discussions between American and Israeli officials. A virtual meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer on Monday was so tense that it led to Dermer yelling at the U.S. side. Biden has reportedly been sharply critical of Netanyahu in private. The president said on April 2 that he was “outraged” when an Israeli airstrike accidentally killed humanitarian workers distributing food in Gaza. The Israeli government took full responsibility for this tragedy.

U.S.-Israeli relations worsened on March 14 when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Israel to hold new elections and criticized Netanyahu for being an obstacle to peace.

Although Schumer’s comments were condemned at the time by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief political rival, as meddling in Israeli politics, they may have helped to undermine Gantz’s support for the Netanyahu war cabinet. Gantz visited Washington to meet with administration officials a week earlier on a visit he did not clear with Netanyahu. On April 3, Gantz called for early elections in September, supposedly to unify the county. Schumer quickly endorsed Gantz’s call for elections and claimed they vindicated his earlier remarks about this issue.

Netanyahu has not yet ordered the Israeli army to go into Rafah to destroy the remaining Hamas forces and has been willing to listen to objections to this operation from Biden officials and their purported alternate plans. Netanyahu knows Israel needs the United States and that most Israelis want a close U.S.-Israel relationship. For this reason, he and his government have endured public and private criticism by Biden officials, with few public complaints.

Biden increased his pressure on Netanyahu during an April 3 phone call when he reportedly again expressed outrage over the recent deaths of aid workers in Gaza and demanded Israel take “a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.” Biden also demanded a cease-fire without delay and came close to conditioning future U.S. aid to Israel on how it responded to U.S. concerns about the war.

Despite President Biden’s feckless badgering of Netanyahu, criticism from other Democratic politicians, and increased opposition to the Netanyahu government in Israel, the status quo at the six-month mark of the war probably will not change. Netanyahu will agree to short-term cease-fires to free hostages. But the Israeli leader will order an attack on Rafah when he has decided he has given U.S. officials enough opportunities to express their opinions of this operation. Netanyahu is not going to be bullied by the United States for how he defends his country.

Moreover, Netanyahu knows Biden’s threats are empty rhetoric driven by a weak politician in serious political trouble at home. The Israeli leader understands that most Republican and Democratic members of Congress support Israel and will not back any Biden effort to cut off American aid and military sales. Netanyahu also probably believes that Biden will become increasingly irrelevant as we approach the November election.

Although pressure on Netanyahu in Israel and from abroad will increase as the year goes on, he appears to have sufficient political support to hold onto power. New elections are scheduled for October 2026, and Netanyahu will not agree to early elections, especially while Israel is at war. Moreover, Gantz does not have the political support in the Knesset to force a snap election.

The challenge for Prime Minister Netanyahu over the next six months will be to defeat what is left of the Hamas fighters and stabilize Gaza after this operation, despite U.S. opposition.

Netanyahu will also try to hold out for a possible new U.S. administration in January 2025 that will restore U.S.-Israel relations, help form a regional alliance to rebuild Gaza, and promote regional peace.

Netanyahu is facing a difficult year in 2024. However, his country is resilient and prepared to go it alone to preserve its freedom and security. But Netanyahu knows how crucial it is that Israel and the United States work together to promote their mutual security interests and therefore sincerely hopes that help is on the way from the U.S. next January.

Fred Fleitz is vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst, and a House Intelligence Committee staff member.


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Photo: US President Joe Biden (L), sits with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the start of the Israeli war cabinet meeting, in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. US President Joe Biden landed in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023 as Middle East anger flared after hundreds were killed when a rocket struck a hospital in war-torn Gaza, with Israel and the Palestinians quick to trade blame. (Photo by Miriam Alster / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MIRIAM ALSTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)