U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken came to Israel last week. It was the fourth time that Blinken has been in Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre against Israel. Coincidentally, Blinken’s visit coincided with the death of his predecessor, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the first Jewish American state secretary in America’s first 200 years. Blinken is the third.
During his visit, Blinken was afforded the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with Israel’s War Cabinet, the most senior political and military leaders charged with managing the war against Hamas, including the release of all the hostages. It is also, no doubt, where most of the pressure on Israel from the rest of the world is being weighed. Excerpts from comments attributed to Blinken and other senior War Cabinet members were made public.
At some point, when discussing renewed combat and the goal of eradicating Hamas, Blinken reportedly said, "You can’t operate in southern Gaza in the way you did in the north. There are two million Palestinians there. You need to evacuate fewer people from their homes, be more accurate in the attacks, not hit UN facilities, and ensure that there are enough protected areas [for civilians]. And if not? Then not to attack where there is a civilian population. What is your system of operation?"
IDF Chief Herzi Halevi reportedly responded, "We follow a number of principles — proportionality, distinction, and the laws of war. There were instances where we attacked on the basis of those principles, and instances where we decided not to attack because we waited for a better opportunity."
Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant reportedly added, "The entire Israeli society is united behind the goal of dismantling Hamas, even if it takes months."
Blinken purportedly retorted, "I don’t think you have the credit for that."
There are many questions that come as a result of these comments by Blinken, both now and historically related to Kissinger’s tenure and pressure on Israel, as well.
The first question is what "credit” is Blinken referring to? Is he (not so subtly) threatening the removal of United States support for Israel's essential war to eradicate Hamas? Is he threatening not to supply the arms needed to do so? Is he threatening to withdraw U.S. aircraft carriers stationed in the Mediterranean acting as a deterrent to Hezbollah and Iran? Is he threatening UN condemnation?
Is Blinken backtracking on what his boss, President Biden, has said is a justifiable and necessary goal of the war — to eradicate Hamas? Or are Biden’s words hollow and don’t mean anything? Through this, will U.S. allies in the region look at America as a reliable ally to have their backs, too, or just be a punching bag for the whims of the Islamists, pushing them into the waiting arms of the Chinese?
There are many more questions.
Rather than equivocating, the U.S. needs to stand strong with Israel for a myriad of reasons that are mostly in its interest, though Israel’s interests are not mutually exclusive. First, the U.S. needs to stop trying to sell the worn-out two-state illusion and to stop parroting a decades-old policy that has no current base in reality. It does not provide an actual solution. American and other world leaders need to come up with a plan that might work, one based on reality, not wishful thinking. The world has changed since Kissinger’s time. Several Arab states have made peace with Israel since his tenure. Useless stuttering of the same phrase that is not only impossible but meaningless does not help and will not solve a problem.
Blinken also visited Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President for-life Mahmoud Abbas, treating him as if he were relevant rather than the impotent Palestinian Arab terrorist leader who cannot break from his antisemitic hate and incitement, and who is not a partner to any peaceful solution, or any hint of wellbeing or prosperity for Palestinian Arabs.
It didn’t help that Blinken pandered to Abbas and the Hamas wing of his party by decrying “settler violence” as if that’s a problem anywhere in the scope of the terror that Israel has dealt with, the rockets still being fired, and the incitement and pay-to-slay policy that Abbas funds to pay terrorists. It makes Blinken look ridiculous, drawing a parallel between a very real issue that represents a statistically insignificant proportion of Israeli society, and the incessant delegitimization of Israel’s very right to exist that’s wide-ranging among Palestinian Arab society.
Kissinger was famous for telling Golda Meir: “You must remember that first I am an American, second I am Secretary of State and third I am a Jew.” Golda quipped: “Henry, you forget that in Israel we read from right to left.” Kissinger was being sincere. Golda was being witty. Blinken would probably agree with Kissinger. However, both Kissinger and Blinken depict a sad reality that either one being Jewish is not something that governs everything they do as a foundation for morality, as well as being connected to an ancient tradition and eternal covenant with God. How sad.
Perhaps, as highly as both were elevated as Jewish Americans, they know that even in America, Jews have not been, and are still not, fully welcome. It may be the best diaspora of the past century, but not without plenty of antisemitism, public and private discriminatory policies, and which has become more dangerous and unwelcoming for Jews than ever before. Perhaps Blinken doesn’t want to be accused of dual loyalty, especially in an America that is less welcoming to Jews.
One cannot escape the fact that U.S. policy today has an eye on next year’s presidential election. While Biden and Blinken have, indeed, said and done things that are noble and do appear to firmly side with Israel, and should be lauded, there has been no shortage of comments amplified by Blinken’s visit that undermine and contradict these. These contradictory statements and actions are not just foolish but also pander to the Hamas wing of the Democratic party. They make Israel less safe, U.S. allies less confident, and open America wider to the same threats.
I won’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I won’t not acknowledge that the Biden-Blinken duo have said and done things that are good and right. The joke is that even a broken clock is right twice a day. I actually credit them with more than that. But if their words and actions are contradictory, and their policies are antiquated non-starters, it is not good for anyone.
We need leaders with solid morals, an unequivocal and accurate knowledge of history, and who can develop a workable plan for the future, not based on past worn-out ideas that are untenable and make those proposing them now look foolish. We need leaders with actual vision for a solution.
Right now, the short-term and immediate goal is the eradication of Hamas, and bringing home ALL the hostages. The solution is not diplomatic doublespeak and threatening Israel.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He is host of the popular Inspiration from Zion podcast. He can be reached at [email protected].