It has been more than two months since Hamas terrorists breached the Gaza-Israel border, killing nearly 1,200 Israelis and capturing hundreds of men, women, and children–many of whom are still held hostage in Gaza today. In the wake of the attacks, Israel has responded with a shocking show of force, levying ceaseless bombing attacks that have leveled Gazan neighborhoods, killed thousands of civilians, and displaced thousands more. Israel has also launched ground assaults in northern and southern Gaza, causing an unmistakable humanitarian crisis: food and water are in short supply, tens of thousands have been killed, and nearly two million have been displaced from their homes.
Through “mutual interests and shared democratic values,” Israel has been an ally of the United States since its inception. America’s longstanding ties with Israel, characterized by diplomatic ties and substantial military aid (to the tune of $3 billion annually) complicates the American response. While Joe Biden decried the “indiscriminate bombing” that has characterized much of Israeli strategy, the United States was also the sole veto in a UN Security Council vote for an immediate ceasefire. Suffice to say, President Biden and the wider US foreign policy response have been sandwiched between a figurative rock and hard place.
The conflict lies in balancing these ties to an Israeli State whose reputation is worsening with each passing day. Meanwhile, generations are divided at home and in government offices, with a “mini-war” waged on the home front. College campuses have become a flashpoint for domestic tensions. Whether we like it or not, a war in Israel is America’s war.
The American response has been complicated and less-than-forceful, but frustration towards widespread civilian deaths prompted Biden to encourage Israel “to be focused on how to save civilian lives—not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful,”. Biden envisions a more targeted strategy to pursue Hamas leaders and free hostages while preventing further addition to the unconscionable civilian toll.
Former President Trump, a staunch supporter of Israel during his time, has made sure to chime in on the situation, declaring that Israel should “do a better job of public relations, frankly, because the other side is beating them at the public relations front.” Trump also added that he would “revoke the student visas of radical anti-American and antisemitic foreigners at our colleges and universities” – reflecting a far more hard-line approach than that of the more sensitive Biden administration.
Meanwhile, Former President Obama’s statement reflected many of the same ideals he maintained in office. He asserted Israel’s “right to defend its citizens,” but also affirmed the importance that “Israel’s military strategy abides by international law.” He gave the forewarning that “any Israeli military strategy that ignores the human costs could ultimately backfire.”
In the end, Israel’s response has resulted in ceaseless death and destruction as well as a fall from grace on the global stage: US support for Israel has diminished while the international community has rallied around a ceasefire. While Israel remains longstanding allies with the US, it falls on Biden to use America’s diplomatic influence to handle the worsening humanitarian situation and restore peace to a region in crisis. As citizens, we are left to hope that conflict will be resolved in short order. In the end, our focus must remain at preserving human life and well-being above all else.