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Where the blame belongs


WORLD Radio - Where the blame belongs

Israel expands ground operations in Gaza as Hamas continues to use Palestinians as political pawns

Palestinians leave their homes following Israeli bombardment on Gaza City. Associated Press/Photo by Abed Khaled

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 31st day of October, 2023. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. First up on The World and Everything in It: Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza.

On Saturday, three weeks after the genocidal attack on October 7th by Hamas militants, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that ground forces would expand operations in the Gaza Strip.

EICHER: The Israeli Defense Force, the IDF, was expected to move in shortly after the initial attack, but held off until now for humanitarian reasons and to try and negotiate the release of hostages and likely for reasons of logistics as well.

BROWN: Joining us now to talk about it is Will Inboden. He’s a former member of the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. Now he’s a professor at the University of Florida, and a columnist with WORLD Opinions.

EICHER: Will, good morning to you.

INBODEN: Good morning, Nick, great to be with you.

EICHER: Well, let’s start with the timing of Israel’s ground offensive. Will, we mentioned three possibilities for the three-week delay. Do you think those are sound? Would you add or subtract any, or emphasize one over any of the others?

INBODEN: Yeah, you know, the Israeli leadership is for very understandable reasons, being very careful about not revealing a lot of their own internal thinking. And obviously, they just don't want to tip their hand to the enemy here, to Hamas. But we do know that they are trying to balance a number of different strategic equities, we might call. You know, foremost among them, of course, is doing anything possible to get as many hostages released and returned as they can. It also is just doing a diligent and intelligence assessment of conditions on the ground and underground in Gaza, given the vast total network and the unprecedented difficulties that involves. And then of course, they want to maintain their very close relations with the United States and other regional allies, but also have to take on board some of the inputs that they're they're getting from from American officials.

BROWN: On Saturday, IDF leaders announced that they had killed the head of aerial array for Hamas, one of the planners behind the October 7th attack. Now, it’s clear that one of Israel’s goals is to hunt down the men who planned and carried out atrocities against Israel, but the bigger question for Israel, it seems, is destroying Hamas and not letting it have control over Gaza. Isn’t the question of political control the bigger one?

INBODEN: Yes. And that's that's where Israel has a new strategic goal here very differently than any other other previous operations into Gaza in the short term. Previously, the goals, you know, in 2014 and 2021, when they would do more limited incursions, those goals were to just, you know, kill or capture a few key Hamas leaders, while Israel was, you know, content to leave Hamas in control of Gaza. Now with the you know, unprecedented atrocities and the quite literal existential threat that Israel has faced from Hamas from the October 7 attacks, they have a very different strategic goal of destroying Hamas, eradicating all the Hamas leadership and ensuring that Hamas cannot regain political control of Gaza.

EICHER: Since the start of this conflict, Democrats have been divided on their support for Israel versus the Palestinians. On October 19th, an open letter claiming to be anonymously “signed” by around 400 congressional staffers was published on social media. The message called on Congress to pass a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and thirteen House Democrats support passing such a resolution.

Meanwhile, older Democrats including the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton don’t think a ceasefire is the right option. Here’s Clinton at an event on Thursday evening:

CLINTON: People who are calling for a ceasefire now do not understand Hamas. That is not possible.

She went on to say that a ceasefire would merely give Hamas more time to rearm. More importantly, that’s the position of the president and therefore the administration.

Will, talk about this political rift among Democrats. How serious is it? And will the president be able to hold firm for Israel, do you think?

INBODEN: Yeah, this is a very serious problem for President Biden and his administration, right, you know, and we've seen this throughout his presidency. He has felt the need to cater or defer to or at least be mindful of the progressive left, the more radical activists within his political base. Biden himself, I don't think that's where his personal instincts are. But he, you know, he knows that he's had relatively thin support, and he needs to be mindful of his hard left. The moment this awful war was launched by Hamas, many of us news just a matter of time before the Democratic left turns against Israel, you know, starts to provide more more tacit support for Hamas. That said, I'm surprised how quickly it's happened. The fact that we're, you know, the war is just getting underway and already President Biden is having to manage this rift within his coalition. And so it's a real political challenge for him.

EICHER: I want to follow up on that. And I wonder, do you think that that was sort of in the mind of those who were setting strategy for Hamas, to go ahead and make this attack thinking that just with an eye on American politics that way that they might be able to outlast the political situation here?

INBODEN: Perhaps so, Nick. I think that's very plausible. I've not spoken with any Hamas leadership, I won't pretend to know what's inside their perverse, twisted minds, but we do know that Hamas follows American politics very closely. We do know that Hamas has been adept at trying to manipulate and manage international public opinion. You know, they've got a very capable propaganda arm. We saw this with how quickly they quote "won the information war" about that strike on the Palestinian hospital. We now know that that was a terrorist missile. It wasn't from the Israelis. But you know, in the first 48 hours or so of the news cycle, Hamas and their propagandists persuaded most major media outlets to blame Israel for that. And so Hamas is certainly very attuned to their fellow travelers are their enablers, if you will, in the international media, and then among the progressive left activist groups in Europe and the United States. And so I do think it's very likely that they are paying attention to that, and maybe even trying to, you know, feed some talking points or their particular views in. So that's another challenge again that President Biden is managing.

EICHER: Right. So last question for you, Will, President Biden continues to insist that, and say so publicly, insisting that Israel must comply with international law, reminding Israel to take care to minimize civilian casualties, which seems a bit condescending from an ally. We don't we don't hear anything like that toward the Ukrainians. But he's also pounding this idea that the end result has got to be progress toward a two state solution. Do you think really, that we’re likelier today than we were before the Hamas offensive to have a two state solution? Where do you think we're less likely now?

INBODEN: I think we're probably less likely now. And you know, that's tragic, because at the end of the day, there are a large number of Palestinians who don't support Hamas, right, and who don't support these awful atrocities. You know, ultimately, we hope for a better future for them. But I don't see any of the conditions anywhere near ripe for a Palestinian state right now. I think the focus has to be on protecting and preserving Israel security and completely eradicating Hamas' rule in Gaza. And then later, you know, those conversations can be had about future political progress or political solutions, but and we also need to remember that as much as civilian casualties are lamentable, you know, pretty much every innocent Palestinian killed in Gaza is Hamas' fault. Okay, Hamas is the one preventing them from evacuating, Hamas is the one using them as human shields, Hamas is, are the ones who embedded themselves in hospitals and schools and other civilian shelters in the midst of their attack on Israel. And so the moral responsibility for these falls on Hamas, Israel needs to do its part of course, to you know, minimize civilian casualties. But let's put the blame where it properly belongs.

BROWN: Will Inboden is a former member of the National Security Council and a current contributor to World Opinions. Thank you for your insights, Will!

INBODEN: Thank you very much.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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