Hamas Tests Israel—and Biden

WSJ  5/11/2021

The jihadists of Hamas on Tuesday launched the biggest single-day rocket attack on the Jewish State in memory, with hundreds flying toward Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well as the usual civilian targets in southern Israel. Israel struck back at 500 targets in Gaza, and this has the potential to become a larger conflict after a relatively long period of Mideast quiet.

The Hamas attacks come after days of Palestinian riots in Jerusalem, some prompted by long-running property disputes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Israeli courts ruled in favor of Jewish owners and against Palestinian leaseholders who claim rights to the property dating to Jordan’s occupation of East Jerusalem after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The case’s Supreme Court hearing was delayed.

Mahmoud Abbas, who runs the Palestinian West Bank region adjacent to Jerusalem, has been held up as a moderate negotiating partner for Israel. Yet his party fomented the Jerusalem violence, broadcasting that it “calls on everyone to raise the level of confrontation in the coming days and hours in the Palestinian lands,” according to Palestinian Media Watch.

The 85-year-old Mr. Abbas, who has headed the Palestinian Authority since 2005 without standing for re-election, may want to turn up the temperature to compensate for falling public confidence in his rule. He’s in competition with Hamas and even more extreme groups, which he shut out of power in the West Bank last month by postponing elections yet again. Hamas, which promises the destruction of Israel, one-upped Mr. Abbas’s riots by reigniting its military confrontation.

Regional politics are at work too. Hamas is funded and supplied by Iran, whose Supreme Leader last week praised “the pure blood of Resistance martyrs” in Palestine. The Biden Administration’s courtship of Iran in renewed nuclear negotiations has been met by Houthi escalation against Saudi Arabia and now Hamas escalation against Israel. The regime may think that the more its proxies clash with U.S. allies, the more eager the U.S. Administration will be to make concessions.

The Biden Administration will also have to resist pressure from its left flank to distance the U.S. from a key ally engaging in self-defense. Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted Tuesday that “we are seeing how the irresponsible actions of government-allied right-wing extremists in Jerusalem can escalate quickly into devastating war.” He must think Israel is firing those rockets on its own civilians.

The White House has given the Democratic left virtually everything it could hope for since Inauguration Day, but if there’s one issue on which the Administration still sounds more like the old guard, it’s the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has not endorsed the left’s distorted interpretation of the conflict as a dichotomy of privilege and victimhood, with Israel responsible for every wrong.

That position will come under pressure if casualties mount and passions rise. Let’s hope Mr. Biden is prepared to affirm that America’s top regional alliance is more important than the dictates of social-justice ideology.



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