It has now been over a week since the conflict between Israel and Hamas has quieted, and we can look forward to relative peace over the next few years. However, it is important to look at what transpired here in America to be able to appreciate what happened.
Unfortunately, the conflict brought a rise in antisemitic violence to the streets of New York as well as many other cities around the country, and that was widely covered by a bevy of Jewish media outlets as well as many national news sources. However, what was not as widely covered, especially by the Jewish media, was the role President Biden played in the way this all played out. Now that the dust has settled and there seems to be relative quiet both in Israel and here, it would be a good time to highlight the work the president did over the two weeks of Israeli-Hamas violence.
Over the two weeks of spilled blood, President Biden showed something that had previously been missing in his presidency: the ability to stand up to the Far Left of the Democratic Party. While members of Congress repeatedly ranted and raved about the “murderous Israelis,” and calls for action against the “apartheid state” emanated from extremists in his own party, Biden stood strong by his position of allowing Israel to defend itself. Perhaps it was his long-standing friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or his ability to determine right from wrong, but whatever his reasoning, President Biden needs to be commended for his decision-making from the time the first Hamas rocket was destroyed mid-air by an Iron Dome missile.
However, that is not all. In a stark contrast to his predecessor, President Biden exhibited a knack for diplomacy the way Americans have come to understand it. While the President publicly repeated his defense of Israeli military operations, he was reportedly very different from behind the scenes. According to various media reports, President Biden put a large amount of pressure on Israel to complete their mission quickly, and at some point, was able to help negotiate a ceasefire through Egypt. The ability to have a public message that differed from a private message is something that was missing in the last administration.
But why is this important? Why can we not have a president who says what he means in public and echoes those sentiments in private? Well, it all depends on what the goal is. If the goal is to have your side win at all costs, sure, go with the man with no switch, but if your goal is to deescalate violence and minimize civilian casualties, perhaps there is a reason for it. In publicly issuing support for Israel, Biden sent a message not only to his party, not only to the American people, but to the whole world - that America stands with Israel. Behind the scenes, however, he had a different message to Bibi. Biden wanted this conflict over as soon as possible, and that pressure pushed Israel to end the conflict much earlier than perhaps President Trump would have.
Remember, one of the constants about President Trump was his severe case of blabbermouth. Say what you want about Donald Trump, but subtlety is not his thing. Because of this, had this happened during a Trump presidency, this conflict could have gone one of two ways. The less likely would have been that the pressure he put on Israel in private would have been showed in public as well, and given the rabid passion that his base has for him, that could have been disastrous for American Jews. However, that is extremely unlikely. The far more likely outcome would have been his unwavering support for Israel’s military operations (both publicly and privately), and in doing so, he would have emboldened the Israelis to do far more damage to Hamas. There would have been more civilian casualties, more international pressure against Israel, and an even worse PR crisis than the one they are facing now - and above all else, more dead bodies. There would have been more dead civilians on both sides, more faces for the New York Times to print on their front page without doing any research to see if the faces are accurate. In fact, this conflict still might be going on today. Ground invasions would not have been out of the question. All this because of President Trump’s unwavering support of Israel, and his inability to separate private from public discourse.
There are those who would say that nobody can possibly know how Donald Trump would have handled this. There are also those who would say that this type of military conflict would not have even happened under President Trump and that this only took five months of a President Biden term to happen after four years of relative quiet and three peace agreements between Israel and Arabic nations. Those people are correct. This whole situation probably would not have existed under President Trump. However, if they would have, it is easy to see how this could have ended up far worse for Israel, for Palestinians, and for Jews around the world.
So why was this not covered in the Jewish media? Why did Jewish outlets mostly ignore President Biden’s behind-the-scenes string-pulling? The cynic would say that this is because over the last 20 years or so, the Democratic Party has grown apart from its support of Israel, and providing positive press to President Biden is considered to be a no-no. The cynic may be correct on the first part, but not giving positive coverage to the leader of the free world, and the head of the party you think is against Israel’s interest, is an even bigger no-no.
Those in support of Israel, and indeed Jewish lives around the world, need to understand that support for their cause is weakening every day. Jews must accept help from every source that offers it. It does not mean that in doing so, you pledge allegiance to everything they stand for. It does not mean that the next time an issue comes up and the person you had previously praised now deserves ridicule, you are now barred from doing so. Politics has become so black-and-white that it has become taboo to point out the good your adversary does. Nobody should ever align themselves firmly with or against a politician or a party. If one chooses to do so, praise and ridicule become impossible when warranted. It is why President Biden deserves this praise now. It is why we must not shy away from praising people when they do the right thing - whether it is Conservatives praising President Biden for his handling of Israel in May of 2021 or Liberals praising President Trump for the Abraham Accords in 2020. Be willing to applaud the good being done regardless of who does it.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.