My recent visit to Israel coincided with David Cameron’s first trip as Foreign Secretary. Cameron had flown in to do rather what one would expect of a Foreign Office stooge: an exercise in appearing to signal support for Israel, but only inasmuch as its self-defence is limited.
Which is to say, not long after saying all the right things about the footage of some of the most gruesome barbarism ever filmed, as Hamas gangs executed, raped and kidnapped Israeli kibbutzniks and festivalgoers, Cameron “warned Israel”, via the BBC, that its war efforts in response are too much for his liking. The Gazan death toll, Cameron declared, is “too high”. One wonders what the “right amount” would be.
Thankfully, Israelis don’t much care about any of what our august Foreign Secretary, back from the wilds of Chipping Norton, has to say about their country’s war efforts. In fact, when I asked them what they made of Cameron’s visit, nobody had even known it had happened.
Israelis are, with good reason, much more interested in what sort of rhetoric and support comes from the US. For decades, the two countries have worked closely. Israel has traded its wares – some of the best military and spy technology in the world – and maintained its position as the only holdout of US values in the entire Middle East and quite a bit beyond. In return, Israelis rightly expect American investment, armour and a vague promise of protection.
But while Western support for Israel hasn’t vanished completely – and the US is still committed to providing Israel with billions in funding per year – the tone and stance has perilously shifted.
Biden initially appeared strong on Israel, even against the yowls of his party, which is now a toxic assemblage that has usurped the better angels of America’s nature and produced vicious anti-Israel voices such as congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. The US president held out despite his own flaws, as the man who fled from Afghanistan, handing over the keys (and weapons) to the Taliban as if the millions of women whose lives were betrayed by his doing so simply didn’t matter.
Yet now it looks increasingly like Biden – and his moral backbone – are forsaking Israel. Perhaps, having inherited such a toxic coalition, it was only a matter of time until he would bow to pressure from those advancing an anti-Israel agenda, in spite of the fact that a great deal of ordinary Americans still vocally support the Jewish state and what it stands for.
Last week saw several developments that would have been absurd if they weren’t so concerning. It was revealed by the Washington Post that Biden, in a desperate bid at appeasement, secretly apologised to figures from the Muslim community in a private meeting.
His crime? Casting doubt on the reliability of Hamas casualty figures. “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” he had stated on October 25, with perfect justification, given that the source for such figures the whole world seems happy to swallow come from a barbaric group of zombie terrorists.
The outrage that followed Biden’s comment was so intense that he gave more than 30 minutes extra of the scheduled time to Muslim leaders, grovelling: “I’m sorry. I’m disappointed in myself. I will do better.”
This woeful exchange pointed to the sheer heft of the machinery that has been bearing down on the White House. Another result was a bewildering tweet last week – since retracted – appearing to indicate a possible shift in policy, in capitulation to “progressive” demands for a ceasefire. “Hamas unleashed a terrorist attack because they fear nothing more than Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace,” tweeted the President. “To continue down the path of terror, violence, killing, and war is to give Hamas what they seek. We can’t do that.”
Biden may have realised that equating Hamas’s barbarism with Israel’s entirely just response was a bit off, but that is little reassurance against the turning tide. The moral poisoning of America’s Democrats seems inexorable.
Secretary of state Anthony Blinken hasn’t been much better, last week demanding “compliance with international humanitarian law” and “a clear plan” for what comes next – as if Israel were a bunch of bloodthirsty marauders that has to be restrained. This is, of course, false – the IDF is arguably the most moral army in the world. But by issuing impossible demands on Israel, Blinken comes across as yet another statesman trying to tie the state’s hands.
It won’t work, however. “There is no way we are not going back to fighting until the end,” said Netanyahu – and indeed the country, still traumatised by the horrific crimes committed on October 7, wouldn’t want it any other way.
Nevertheless, the rot of anti-Israel thinking in the highest echelons of American Democratic politics has been in train for some time. In 2021, the Biden administration rejoined the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which has become a forum for anti-Israel sentient. Biden also indicated he would reopen a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem to Palestine.
This presidential trend was set in place by Obama, who only supported Israel through gritted teeth, and who has continued to speak in this vein since October 7. At an event in early November, as Israelis were still reeling, he went on about the evils of the Israeli “occupation” in Gaza, saying it is “unbearable”. This message was quickly promoted by those who hate Israel.
People accuse Israel of acting arrogantly, aggressively, and unilaterally. The first two are distortions. The latter has become increasingly necessary as its best and closest ally turns its back.