Here’s an idea.
Any cease-fire in Gaza, even a brief one, must require Hamas to release the hostages it is holding.
The virtues of the trade-off are obvious, which is why the idea has been widely embraced, including by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The terrorists’ objections are predictable, Biden’s are political.
Instead of demanding the release of the 240 hostages, thought to include at least 10 American citizens, Biden is pushing Israel to declare a “humanitarian pause” without any reciprocity.
His aim, he says, is to help innocent Gazan civilians get more food, water, fuel and medical treatment.
He doesn’t say it, but he also aims to get critics off his back, especially the anti-Israel caucus in his own party.
Aim higher, Mr. President.
Aim to get the hostages out, because anything less is a “gift to Hamas.”
That’s what Hillary Clinton called a cease-fire, saying the baby-killing monsters “would spend whatever time there was in a cease-fire in effect rebuilding their armaments, creating stronger positions to be able to fend off an eventual assault by the Israelis.”
Unfortunately, the president’s push for a cease-fire has become a steady drumbeat, and it is weakening his initial strong stance.
In the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 slaughter, he visited the stunned Jewish nation and besides a photo-op hug with Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden delivered critical military aid, especially Iron Dome batteries and missiles.
Aiming to keep Hezbollah Iran and its Hezbollah proxy out of the war, he also dispatched two naval strike force groups to the eastern Mediterranean.
The bold move seems to be working, with Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, using a Friday speech to congratulate Hamas and threaten the US and Israel, but he stopped short of fully committing his troops and their vast arsenal to the war.
But lately, Biden’s commander-in-chief posture is being undercut by a career politician’s efforts to try to have it both ways.
A fair reading of his recent words and actions suggests the president still aims to insure Israel’s victory but also believes he must placate the shocking number of Hamas fans in his own party.
The youth vote is critical to Democrats, and polls show young Americans are far less supportive of Israel than previous generations.
Moreover, Muslim-American voters in potential swing states, including Michigan and Minnesota, are said to be unhappy with Biden’s support of Israel.
As if on cue, Biden is pandering to phantom accusations of rising Islamophobia and refuses to forcefully denounce the actual scourge of antisemitism on college campuses.
The result is that his compromised positions lack moral clarity when it is needed most.
To muddy the water between good and evil is a fool’s errand and a formula for disaster.
Better that Biden see the Israel-Hamas battle in the same way Ronald Reagan saw the clash between America and the Soviet Union, which Reagan famously called the “evil empire.”
“Here’s my strategy on the cold war,” Reagan said.
“We win, they lose.”
And that’s what happened.
White House hypocrisy
Biden’s jumbled approach was on stark display Friday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s latest visit to Israel.
After a private meeting with Netanyahu where he saw more gruesome images from Israel’s deadliest day, Blinken said, “It is striking and in some ways shocking that the brutality of the slaughter has receded so quickly in the memories of so many.”
Yet in the next breath, he pushed a temporary cease-fire, saying protecting civilians was the “right thing to do” and that failing to do so “plays into the hands of Hamas.”
He also said, “There will be no partners for peace” if Israel is seen as indifferent to Gazans’ death and suffering.
The idea that Israel can simultaneously eradicate Hamas and appeal to nameless “partners for peace” is an ivory-tower illusion.
Israel is in a fight for its existence and doesn’t have the luxury of also trying to please the United Nations and The New York Times.
Besides, as new GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson and others have noted, there was a cease-fire until Hamas broke it on Oct. 7.
For his part, Netanyahu was quick to reject Blinken’s demands, saying there would be no temporary halt that does not include “the release of our hostages.”
The linkage is such a no-brainer that it defies explanation that Biden and Blinken resist it.
Hamas seized civilians, including women, children and the elderly, and is keeping them only to serve as human shields and bargaining chips.
If they won’t release them in exchange for a pause that would allow Gazan civilians to get more aid and treatment, why should the burden fall on Israel?
That just rewards the terrorists’ strategy.
Hamas doesn’t care about Gazan civilians and never did.
Otherwise, why would they stash rockets under schools and build their bunkers under hospitals?
Remember, too, that the concrete and other supplies used to build the hundreds of miles of tunnels were supposedly imported for civilian use.
Indeed, there is a strong case to be made that Biden’s earlier demand that Israel allow aid trucks into Gaza should have included the release of at least some of the 240 hostages.
Israel reluctantly agreed, and got nothing in return, neither freed hostages nor international good will.
Even now, with as many as 100 aid trucks crossing from Egypt each day, Hamas has not released a single hostage in exchange.
Yet Blinken demands Israel agree to a cease-fire and approve even more aid trucks, including those carrying fuel.
That, too, is another red line with Netanyahu, who says no fuel because Hamas would steal it and use the fuel to power its rockets aimed at Israel.
A final Biden mistake is that, as part of his effort to appear more evenhanded, he and Blinken keep talking about a two-state solution.
The most obvious response is that there was one, with Gaza a self-ruled Palestinian state, and look what it became: a terror state controlled by sadists who cared only about killing Jews and wiping Israel off the map.
Worse, talk of a two-state outcome now sounds like a concession that Hamas could claim as justification for its bestial attack.
Although there is a legitimate Palestinian aspiration for a nation of its own, Hamas is not a movement that aims for coexistence, nor is it battling Israel in a dispute over borders.
From its founding, Hamas has been crystal clear about its purpose.
It wants a one-state solution, an Islamist state of “Palestine” that runs from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and is Judenfrei, free of Jews.
Those are the stakes.
Israel knows it and it’s past time Biden realizes it.