As Israel Eyes Last Hamas Stronghold, Experts Urge Biden to Support Netanyahu

Israeli aircraft

Over the weekend, the Biden administration ratcheted up its rhetoric against Israel’s fight against the terrorist group Hamas, as Vice President Kamala Harris declared that there could be “consequences” for Israel if it invades the southernmost Gazan city of Rafah, which remains the last major stronghold of Hamas. Experts and lawmakers say that despite the difficult situation in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees are encamped, the U.S. must support Israel’s military efforts to rid Gaza of Hamas in the wake of the terrorist group’s October 7 atrocities.

As opposition to Israel has grown within some segments of the Democratic Party’s voter base, prominent Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have vocalized an increasingly hard-edged position against Israel in recent weeks, with Schumer calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down on March 14. Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued the drumbeat last week, saying that a failed U.S.-led U.N. resolution calling for a ceasefire tied to the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas was meant to create “a sense of urgency.”

But dissent from within the Democratic ranks on the party’s stance against Israel appears to be growing. On Sunday, Senator John Fetterman (D-Pa.) responded unequivocally to Vice President Harris’s remarks that a Rafah invasion would be a “huge mistake” and that the Biden administration would not rule out consequences against Israel if it moved forward. “Hard disagree,” Fetterman wrote on X. “Israel has the right to prosecute Hamas to surrender or to be eliminated. Hamas owns every innocent death for their cowardice hiding behind Palestinian lives.”

Last Friday, Lela Gilbert, a senior fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council who spent 10 years living in Israel, joined “Washington Watch” to discuss the current status of Israel’s war against Hamas and the Biden administration’s response to it.

“I think that what we’re looking at is a war during an election year and how our American policy may shift about a little more than usual [due to] trying to satisfy everybody with our decisions,” she observed. “… I think … our American president and his administration [are] try[ing] to get it over with as quickly as possible as we get closer to the election.”

Gilbert further argued that the events of October 7 must be the central issue guiding American policy, despite a legacy media and Democratic Party that wants to move on from it. “[W]e have to remember what happened on October 7th, which was the absolute genocide, the most brutal killing of Israeli women, children, babies. It was unbelievably bad. That’s not in front of people anymore. What’s in front of them now is the continuing efforts of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to clean Hamas out of Gaza.”

Reports over the weekend indicated that those efforts are continuing apace, as the IDF said Saturday that it had “killed more than 170 gunmen and captured 800 terror suspects during its ongoing operation against Hamas at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.”

What remains to be seen is how a potential invasion of Rafah would unfold. “We have no way to defeat Hamas without getting into Rafah and eliminating the battalions that are left there,” Netanyahu made clear last week. But with 1.4 million Palestinians currently packing the city, with thousands sheltering in refugee camps, it will likely be difficult for Israel to avoid significant casualties during a hypothetical invasion. Because of this, the Biden administration has urged Israel to come up with a “credible” plan to evacuate civilians.

However, tensions between the administration and Israel appeared to escalate even further on Monday as Netanyahu “canceled a planned trip to Washington by his top aides to discuss plans for an offensive” in Rafah due to the U.S.’s failure to block a China and Russia-backed U.N. resolution that “called for a ceasefire without conditioning it on the release of hostages.”

Gilbert, who also serves as a fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, acknowledged the difficulties with a hypothetical invasion of Rafah but also emphasized the danger of Hamas.

“[M]any of the people that are stranded in the cities that are being looked at now are definitely going to be sidelined and sometimes injured and maybe some killed, so we have to be compassionate about that,” she noted. “But on the other hand … I hope that America has the presence of mind to see that there’s no reason to protect Hamas, period. It’s doing nothing for the good people in Gaza, the ordinary citizens. It’s not good for anyone. … I think we should support every effort to clean house in these cities and get rid of as much of Hamas as possible.”

Gilbert concluded, “Israel has to be careful about being blatantly offensive, but I think right now Netanyahu has been down this road before. I trust him to make wise decisions and to do what he can to protect the Israeli people from another Hamas attack.”

Dan Hart

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.

Photo: tasnimnews.com

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Family Research Council
Founded in 1983, Family Research Council is a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to articulating and advancing a family-centered philosophy of public life. In addition to providing policy research and analysis for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government, FRC seeks to inform the news media, the academic community, business leaders, and the general public about family issues that affect the nation from a biblical worldview. Website: frc.org 1-800-225-4008 801 G Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001