Joe Biden did something extraordinarily beneficial at the beginning of the Israel-Gaza war: He moved two aircraft carriers  to the Mediterranean and parked them right off the shores of Lebanon. The purpose was unmistakable. America was telling Hezbollah to keep quiet and stay out of it while Israel went to war with Hamas down south. It didn’t quite work, since intermittent rocketry still led Israel to evacuate much of its northernmost population. But it worked well enough.

Something happened quietly a few months ago. The carriers left. The USS Gerald Ford returned to Norfolk. The USS Eisenhower was redeployed to the Red Sea to deal with the shipping crisis. And guess what? Without American deterrence, Hezbollah has been emboldened, the more so as time has gone on.

Another 70,000 Israelis have been newly evacuated from the North as bombardments from Lebanon have become extraordinarily savage. The town of Kiryat Shmoneh is on fire. A Druze village was unmercifully attacked. Israel is wracked with uncertainty. It cannot allow Hezbollah’s depradations to continue. It must respond. It must restore deterrence by raising the cost to Hezbollah of its actions. But it’s still got Rafah to finish. And it’s still trying to navigate the weird situation of the past two weeks, in which an “Israeli proposal” for a ceasefire and hostage release created a new sense of urgency for negotiations with Hamas—a proposal offered and re-offered that Hamas has, by my count, now rejected five different times.

Joe Biden made this all public with his strange speech “accepting” Israel’s proposal to which he then doodled a conclusion on top that said “end of war end of war” like Annette Funicello in a beach party movie writing “Mrs Frankie Avalon” over and over on her chemistry notebook. For nearly two weeks now, America has said the ball is in Hamas’ court because the Israeli proposal is so good (while Biden and others say Bibi wants to keep the war going because he’s mean or something). Hamas has replied, in effect, “well, if it’s in our court, we’re keeping the ball. Drop dead.” And still the Bidenites keep on, insisting if Hamas wants a good future for the Palestinian people it will accept the deal. What does Hamas have to do to convince these supposed experts that it has no interest in a “good future for the Palestinian people”—that what it wants are dead Jews and a crippled Israel on its way to destruction?

No matter. The tattered coat upon a stick who resides in the White House has grabbed onto this “proposal” like a walker and will not let go. And the fact that Biden and his people are doing what they can to prevent Israel from finishing its work has given Hezbollah the opportunity to open what appears to be a second front against Israel in this proxy war whose real master is in Tehran.

This is another inadvertent result of the increasingly feckless, imprudent, and improvident American policy at this critical moment of the 21st century. American efforts have been dedicated, pretty much since December, to seeking to manage Israel’s behavior and tone it down. It’s all come down, basically, to: Do war less. Even as Israel’s tactics and war-fighting strategies improved over the months, as it learned how to fight this war the way all armies must learn to fight all wars as they are going on, America did not acknowledge the changes but continued with its “do war less” calls, shedding crocodile tears for Gazans whose best chance for a better future lay not in slowing Israel’s progress but in allowing Israel to defeat Hamas and win the war as quickly and overwhelmingly as possible.

Israel froze in place three months ago as it cornered Hamas in Rafah, with its leadership engaging in a full existential crisis about what to do and how. How to save the hostages? How to keep America from turning on Israel? How to provide the right environment for Israel’s fighters so that they are not unnecessarily endangered. As our Jonathan Schanzer pointed out, the felt need to satisfy American concerns has resulted in more jeopardy for Israelis fighting in Gaza. Some of that could have been avoided had America not wagged its finger and yelled and interposed itself between Israel and Hamas for reasons we don’t yet fully understand—but which surely relate to some effort to shield Egypt and Qatar from revelations about their roles in keeping Hamas alive and kicking.

And now Hezbollah, deterred at the beginning of the war by a show of American force, is no longer deterred. We had other things to do with those carriers, and such decisions should, of course, always be made in the American national interest. But let’s be clear here. The removal of the carriers should have been a sign to Israel’s leaders that they could no longer condition their decisions on America’s tacit approval. Alas for Israel’s leaders, and likely its people too, they could not envision going forward relentlessly without us.

That was a choice; it would have been agonizing to make a different choice and just go forward into Rafah with Jake Sullivan throwing himself on the hood of the car like T.J. Hooker trying to prevent it. But there was a cost, and there is a cost. The Biden Administration has made things worse, not better. And Israel’s leadership—in failing to distance itself from an increasingly ruinous friendship—has failed to protect the national interest yet again, as it did when it failed to see Hamas coming. And now there will likely be two wars simultaneously where they might have been a victory in one that would have forestalled the need for the other—or a second conflict following the conclusion of the first that Israel could have fought in less desperate and parlous circumstances. Now it will have to do what it will have to do.

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