Op/Ed

Editorial: Gaza invasion puts American priorities in a new light

ANGELO LYNN

Ten days ago, Vermont Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), were joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in sending a letter to President Biden expressing their serious concerns of Israel’s invasion and potential occupation of Gaza. They asked important questions about the consequences.

The Biden administration has tried to press these questions and others on Israeli President Netanyahu, who has largely rejected America’s counsel and pushed forward with an assault that has killed thousands of mostly innocent citizens of Gaza and now is talking about a longer-term occupation of the area..

Yes, Israel has the right to defend itself against the barbarous attack on Oct. 7 led by Hamas. So too, however, does the United States have a right to withhold or restrict support to an over-reaction by Israel against the Palestinian people. Many are voicing that concern. And it’s not just a humanitarian concern; the political consequences are dire. 

“Israel suffered a barbaric attack and is well within its rights to defend itself in keeping with international law, including the protection of civilians,” the senators wrote. “We note recent reports that senior U.S. officials – including Secretary of Defense Austin – have conveyed to the Israeli government their serious concerns about the risks associated with this (a full-scale assault and occupation of Gaza). We share many of these concerns, not just relating to the timing and difficulty of such an operation and its likely humanitarian toll, but also regarding the difficult questions about the political reality it will leave in its wake.”

More recently, the debate over the mounting casualties Israel’s assault is inflicting is creating serious political blowback and putting the nation’s foreign policy in the region, which had been on the edge of substantial breakthroughs, at risk.

To that end, and as Congress considers the administration’s emergency funding request for Israel and Ukraine as well as the House’s misguided counter under House Speaker Mike Johnson, the senators poised several questions that need answers before more aid to Israel is given, including these:

• How will the humanitarian aid included in the supplemental funding request help mitigate the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza?

• How long will it take to establish military control of Gaza, and what level of insurgent activity does the administration anticipate from that point?

• How will the success of the operation be measured?

• How likely is it that other regional actors – especially Iran-backed proxies – would enter the conflict, and what effect would that have on U.S. forces in the region?

• What will this operation mean for the hostages still being held in Gaza?

• What political authority would administer Gaza after an Israeli operation?

• Will the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have been displaced be guaranteed safe return to their homes?

• What impact will the invasion and occupation of Gaza have on the international community’s support for Israel?

• What political process will follow this conflict, and what is the desired end-state in Gaza?

The senators are also right to insist the “United States must take a leading role in charting out a future that respects the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike.” But making that point sound equitable to Palestinians and their supporters after Israel has already had its way will undercut America’s authority in the region. And because continued military and financial aid is the only leverage the U.S. has over Netanyahu, the Biden administration may need to reign in Netanyahu’s worst tenancies, even if that means withholding crucial aid in the short term. That’s because, maintaining some credibility with Palestinians and their supporters may be the only way the U.S. has a role to preventing a larger conflict in the Middle East. That notion takes priority over any short-term support Israel needs to wage its assault and occupation of Gaza.

Angelo Lynn

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