Hamas demands expose widening rift between Israel and US

While Israel views Hamas hostage demands as outrageous, the Americans seem to somehow be encouraged by them.

By Ryan Jones | | Topics: America, Gaza, Hamas
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Feb. 7, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/US State Department.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Feb. 7, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/US State Department.

Is the administration of US President Joe Biden working for Israel’s best interests? Or is it more concerned with its own reelection in November? Those are questions many in Israel are asking in relation to the divergent reactions to Hamas’s latest hostage release demands.

In exchange for the remaining Israeli hostages held in Gaza (a third of whom are now believed to be dead), Qatar informs us that Hamas wants:

  • A cessation of the Gaza war (thus leaving Hamas in control of the territory)
  • The withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza (meaning no post-war IDF security control)
  • The release of at least 1,500 jailed Palestinian terrorists, many of whom have murdered Israelis, including those who took part in the Oct. 7 massacres
  • A total halt to Jews visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
  • Thousands of temporary buildings for Gaza
  • A massive increase in the supply of fuel and medicines to Gaza

In short, these are victory conditions for Hamas. The devastation of Gaza notwithstanding, if it can extract these concessions from Israel, it will have won the war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately labeled the demands as “delusional,” noting that victory for Israel is within reach.

“Hamas’s answer was formulated so that Israel would refuse it,” added Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Shortly before the publication of Hamas’s demands, War Cabinet minister Benny Gantz said there was no way the IDF was withdrawing from Gaza before the threat of future Hamas attacks had been eliminated. A month ago, Gantz clarified that Israel would retain security control of at least parts of Gaza under any post-war framework.

As Gallant noted, the terms presented by Hamas on Wednesday are a clear non-starter. If Israel were to actually accept them, it would be tantamount to surrender, and would all but guarantee the next terrorist invasion. After all, if Hamas alone could achieve so much by sending 3,000 jihadists into Israel, imagine what could be gained next time if Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies joined in, and tens of thousands of terrorists invaded.

Visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, nevertheless, said he felt the Hamas response had “created space” for dialogue. For many Israelis, Blinken’s remark was nearly as outrageous as Hamas’s demands.

“We had an opportunity today to discuss with the Israeli government the response that Hamas sent last night,” Blinken told reporters in Israel. He stressed that while some of Hamas’s demands were indeed “non-starters,” it was nevertheless “essential” to reach a truce and hostage deal, and that the terror group’s response had “created space” to do so.

Blinken and the Biden admin might be as delusional as Hamas. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL.

Washington missed the turn

The events of October 7, 2023 and the subsequent war in Gaza have been a historic turning point in many ways. As Israelis say, “what once was will no longer be.” And that doesn’t relate solely to relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The diplomatic tension surrounding Israel’s efforts to defend itself and prevent the horrors of that black Shabbat from ever recurring has further exposed deep rifts between Israel and the United States. Or, at least, between Israel and the current US administration.

The White House needs to understand that Oct. 7 caused a shift in the Israeli psyche. US national interests are no longer on equal footing with Israeli national interests. Because for Israelis, it’s literally a matter of life or death, and a horrible, torturous death at that.

The vast majority of Israelis no longer care if the White House approves of what they feel must be done to protect the Jewish state, or about the Americans’ preferred path to resolving the conflict. The formulas coming out of Washington have clearly failed.

Blinken is peddling damaged goods.