Netanyahu, As Predicted, Humiliates Biden

With Lebanon on the brink, how many wet willies is Biden prepared to tolerate? PLUS: The "most intense running sea battle the Navy has faced since World War II" is a failure

Netanyahu, As Predicted, Humiliates Biden
A happy-looking Benjamin Netanyahu. Via the White House.

With Lebanon on the brink, how many wet willies is Biden prepared to tolerate? PLUS: The "most intense running sea battle the Navy has faced since World War II" is a failure

Edited by Sam Thielman

WHO COULD POSSIBLY HAVE PREDICTED that Benjamin Netanyahu would reject the ceasefire proposal President Biden announced on May 31? You remember, the announcement when Biden suggested Hamas was the rejectionists and the ceasefire plan was an Israeli one, all while urging the Israeli government to accept the plan it had supposedly put forward? 

On Sunday, Netanyahu gave an interview to Israel's Channel 14 stating unambiguously that he would agree only to "a partial deal" that would bring back only "some" of the remaining hostages. "We are committed to continue the war after the pause in order to achieve the goal of destroying Hamas. I will not give up on this," Netanyahu said. Notice that Netanyahu is giving up on getting most of the hostages home—the only objective that unites the pro- and anti-war camps in Israel and abroad—if it means stopping the destruction of Gaza. 

Only if you are unfamiliar with Benjamin Netanyahu's long political career could you possibly be surprised by his position. Netanyahu is being Netanyahu. He cannot give up on the war without his right-wing coalition partners collapsing his government and clearing the way for an investigation into the security failures ahead of Oct. 7 that will inevitably examine his conduct. After that lies a criminal prosecution, since Netanyahu is facing corruption charges in a trial whose progress has slowed considerably due to the war. Even were his career and his freedom not imperiled, Netanyahu showed in 2014 that this is the type of war he prefers to wage in Gaza. 

The first phase of the proposal for a ceasefire and hostage exchange, now adopted by the United Nations Security Council as well as the United States, is acceptable to Netanyahu. An end to the war short of his unachievable objective of "total victory" is not. If you'll forgive me, this is playing out exactly how FOREVER WARS assessed it on June 3

It's not just me who says Netanyahu's objective is unachievable. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, stated in an interview last week that seeking Hamas' destruction is just "throwing dust in the public's eyes."

One of the people throwing that dust is Biden. Calling the May 31 ceasefire proposal an "Israeli" one was a transparent gambit to box Netanyahu into ending the war while portraying Hamas as the rejectionists. Israeli officials quickly called shenanigans on Biden's presentation of the ceasefire. "It’s strange that they say it’s an Israeli proposal and at the same time that Israel needs to agree to it," one told NBC.

But the problem isn't that Biden misrepresented his ceasefire. It's better to end a war dishonestly than continue it forthrightly. (See Gideon Levy's Haaretz column on Sunday for more on this.) The problem is that Biden is not forcing Netanyahu into acquiescence. 

Biden is once again angry with Netanyahu, very, very angry, we're told, as we have been told so many times since Oct. 7. Only he's angry with Netanyahu for a different reason: Netanyahu last week said public that Biden is withholding more weapons shipments. Biden canceled a meeting with Netanyahu afterwards—a meeting whose agenda item was, alarmingly, Iran—to show "there are consequences for pulling such stunts," an administration official told Axios. It's laughable that a canceled meeting is supposed to shame Netanyahu into compliance, but it's pitiful that Biden fears Netanyahu calling him insufficiently supportive of Israel. That's Netanyahu's entire thing to any American who says no to him! Somehow Biden convinced himself that giving Netanyahu everything materially necessary to kill 37,000-and-counting Palestinians would inoculate him from that line of attack. 

This is not the first time Netanyahu has humiliated Biden, and clearly it won't be the last. Some of us are old enough to remember Biden's arriving in Jerusalem in 2010 to get movement on a peace process only to be greeted with word of new West Bank settlement construction. Netanyahu got away with it then, and so it shouldn't be surprising that the result of such entrenched impunity is now the growing civilian quasi-administration of the West Bank under the fascist minister Bezalel Smotrich, which should be understood as a bid for annexation in all but name.

Among the other results is Netanyahu dismissing Biden's efforts at ending the war, pulverizing Rafah despite a supposed American "red line," and likely using his congressional address next month to rally support against Biden. The Washington Post reports that "a pervasive gloom has fallen over the Biden administration as policy initiatives and a cease-fire seem ever more distant." It has only itself to blame. Biden knew Netanyahu was a scorpion when he agreed to carry Netanyahu on his back across the Oct. 7 river. There is no excuse for "gloom" when Palestinian, Israeli, Lebanese, Yemeni and other lives are at stake. There is only pressure to be brought to bear on the rejectionist—pressure that Biden, even with Netanyahu giving him a wet willie, shows no sign of summoning.

Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister and perhaps soon to be the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for war crimes, is in Washington today. Among the agenda items on Gallant's meetings with the Biden administration is the future course of escalation against Hezbollah in the north. Hezbollah's entry into the war in earnest has been a Sword of Damocles hanging over the conflict since Oct. 7.

Last week, Amos Hochstein, one of Biden's most important aides and presently his envoy to Lebanon, reportedly indicated that the administration is prepared to back Israel if it escalates against Hezbollah. Why would Netanyahu feel pressure to acquiesce to a permanent ceasefire when he's getting the green light from Biden to open a second front of the war in earnest? If Biden gets mad when Netanyahu says the U.S. isn't giving Israel weapons fast enough, does that sound like someone who will tell Netanyahu there won't be any arms shipments for use in Lebanon?

A TEXAS WOMAN is accused of trying to drown a three-year old Palestinian-American child at a pool in Euless on May 19. This is what happens when politicians and journalists portray Palestinians as a nation of terrorists. The vigilante promise of the War on Terror is in full effect. 

ON SATURDAY, THE PENTAGON announced that the carrier strike group of the USS Dwight Eisenhower will finally be relieved by its counterpart led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The Ike's deployment was extended twice since Oct. 7, where it took part in what would turn out to be an historic campaign: what the Associated Press calls "the most intense running sea battle the Navy has faced since World War II," back during the birth of the aircraft carrier era of naval warfare. And that campaign, to stop Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, has to be considered a failure. 

The Washington Post doesn't say it in those words, but its overview provides for no other conclusion. Before Biden ordered the Ike to strike Houthi positions in Yemen, the Houthis launched 190 attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. After the strikes, the Houthis launched 100 more attacks and counting. Remember that the goal is zero attacks. "[B]y the end of March, the volume of traffic through the Suez Canal and Bab el-Mandeb Strait had dropped by half, according to the World Bank," the Post reports, and today the Times is fretful about the economic interruptions stemming from the Houthis putting Suez transit at risk. Gerald Feierstein, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, gave an epitaph of a quote: The Houthis' "ability to replace whatever we destroy is unimpeded and our ability to interdict materiel coming into the country negligible." 

This isn't on the sailors of the Ike, who were given an impossible mission. Six months of naval bombardment of Yemen has been basically the War on Terror at sea: pointless violence in the pursuit of an unattainable objective, which those in charge of the war consider preferable to unpalatable political solutions. In this case, the futile bombardment is the alternative to doing the one thing that will secure zero Red Sea attacks, and that is to compel Israel to pull out of Gaza. Or, as Feierstein put it, "[A]s long as they have the incentive to continue these attacks, they’ve demonstrated they have the ability to do it.” The incentive, of course, is the Israeli war, which Biden can force Netanyahu to end but doesn't. How many humiliations is a genocide worth swallowing?

I HOPE EVERYONE HAS HAD A CHANCE TO WATCH "THE NIGHT WON'T END," which FOREVER WARS previewed, however obliquely, on Thursday. If not, it's available here. The forensic work put into uncovering the horror that was the final hours of Hind Rajab's life is a testament to the power of journalism, and that is by no means the documentary's only achievement.

ISRAEL'S HIGH COURT has ordered disclosures about the torture the IDF inflicts on Palestinian captives—I guess we're not supposed to call them hostages—at Sde Teiman, the detention center FOREVER WARS highlighted last month. "The state will be required to address issues like meals, medical treatment, hygiene, punishment methods and cuffing conditions," Haaretz reported Sunday. The accounts out of Sde Teiman are horrific and sickeningly familiar. This is the New York Times earlier this month: 

Mr. al-Hamlawi, the senior nurse, said a female officer had ordered two soldiers to lift him up and press his rectum against a metal stick that was fixed to the ground. Mr. al-Hamlawi said the stick penetrated his rectum for roughly five seconds, causing it to bleed and leaving him with “unbearable pain.”
A leaked draft of the UNRWA report detailed an interview that gave a similar account. It cited a 41-year-old detainee who said that interrogators “made me sit on something like a hot metal stick and it felt like fire,” and also said that another detainee “died after they put the electric stick up” his anus.

The word for this is rape

Assadullah Haroun, who was until recently detained at Guantanamo, told al-Jazeera on Saturday, "Physical torture was really bad but the worst was mental torture in different forms. I believe there isn’t much of a difference in the torture of prisoners of Palestine, Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib."

STEVEN SEMLER, who does great work with data visualizations related to "national security," finds that 98 percent of U.S. campus protests for Palestine have been peaceful. "Campus protests pretty much only became violent after counterprotesters or the police showed up," Steven assesses after diving into the data. 

Not since the first week of the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations has so much police violence been misreported as protester violence. I know there will be no newsroom accountability for this, but it amounts to a mass deception.

WALLER VS. WILDSTORM, the superhero spy thriller I co-wrote with my friend Evan Narcisse and which the masterful Jesús Merino illustrated, is available for purchase in a hardcover edition! If you don't have single issues of WVW and you want a four-issue set signed by me, they're going fast at Bulletproof Comics

No one is prouder of WVW than her older sibling, REIGN OF TERROR: HOW THE 9/11 ERA DESTABILIZED AMERICA AND PRODUCED TRUMP, which is available now in hardcover, softcover, audiobook and Kindle edition. And on the way is a new addition to the family: THE TORTURE AND DELIVERANCE OF MAJID KHAN.