". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Israel Withdraws Forces to Prepare Rafah Offensive

April 9, 2024

Israel removed all but one brigade from the Gaza Strip on Sunday, following months of constant fighting. Israel’s “troops are resting for future missions, and the war is far from over,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins summarized. “A major military operation appears to be in the making that could bring about finality — of the crushing, if you will, of Hamas.”

Hamas’s will to fight has not evaporated yet. Within hours of troops from the IDF’s 98th Division withdrawing from the area around Khan Younis, terrorists fired rockets from that city towards Israel.

Israel has good reasons for leaving, said Caroline Glick, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy, on Monday’s “Washington Watch,” but the timing was unfortunate. “There are tactical rationales for leaving Khan Younis,” she said. “We don’t want to be sitting ducks. And, in the absence of the ability to take full control over the area … that places our troops in danger.”

However, “the optics of the withdrawal from Khan Younis by Division 98 were very problematic, coming as they did 72 hours after President Biden sharply criticized Israel,” Glick added. The White House “sped to get the contents of that conversation out to the media in the most pejorative and insulting way possible towards Israel,” she complained. “The optics sent a signal that was picked up immediately by Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran that the United States has abandoned Israel.”

In an April 4 readout of a call between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House noted that Biden called the “overall humanitarian situation … unacceptable” and demanded “an immediate ceasefire.” According to the readout, Biden also demanded that Israel “announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” or else “U.S. policy with respect to Gaza” might change.

Of course, Israel has already announced and implemented multitudinous steps to protect civilians, mitigate human suffering, and protect aid workers. Biden’s call readout didn’t threaten a change in U.S. policy with respect to Gaza but rather announced one.

While the Netanyahu government is likely not capitulating to Biden’s demands directly, the Biden administration’s dwindling tolerance for Israel may have forced Israeli forces to withdraw in another sense. “It’s possible that the better plan is to just withdraw and go in for specific raids, under the circumstances, the political constraints that Israel is operating under due to the Biden administration’s hostility,” Glick admitted. “Because the United States is sowing chaos with massive amounts of trucks coming in — holding God only knows what — most of which is going directly to Hamas.” In other words, the reason why Israel couldn’t secure the area is because it was accommodating American demands that only aided Hamas.

Such rubber-spined actions by America “actually strengthens the hand of Hamas,” protested Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) on “Washington Watch.” “When President Biden steps out and pushes back against Israel and says, ‘Back up,’ what he’s really doing is saying to the whole region, ‘Wait it out, and America will give up on this, and Israel will have no allies, and then [you] can run over Israel.’”

This dynamic has “had a bad effect on the situation of the hostages, where Hamas no longer feels that it should make a deal with Israel,” said Glick. All they have to do is wait for Biden to isolate Israel further.

Israelis unhappy with the IDF’s apparent retreat staged “a major demonstration outside of Gaza” on Monday “by a number of groups that just formed ad hoc,” and who were “livid at the sense that we may be accepting defeat,” Glick related. “The Israeli people saw what defeat looks like on October 7th, and we’re not willing to relive that experience, ever.”

In response to the protestors’ concerns, Netanyahu declared Monday that “total victory over Hamas … requires entering Rafah and eliminating the terrorist battalions there.” In contradiction of White House ultimatums, he added, “This will happen; there is a date.”

“I do not see any ambivalence whatsoever among the Jewish leadership on what has to be done,” Perkins pointed out. “There’s no question in my mind that they are going to see this through because they have to, whether the United States is with them or not.”

While the Biden administration is concerned about locking in the anti-Semitic vote in November, Israelis are more concerned with their peace and security for years to come. The Biden administration is focused on 140 square miles of Mediterranean coastline, but Israelis are concerned about how the outcome in Gaza will interact with the wider regional conflict.

“You have Hezbollah to the north. You’ve got Iran and its other puppets that will be emboldened if Israel is not successful against Hamas,” said Perkins. Glick agreed, “Everybody is watching what happens in Gaza.”

The most immediate threat is Hezbollah terrorists attacking Israel from Lebanon. “People lose track of the fact that there’s been 4,000 rockets fired from the North,” observed Lankford. Everyone’s focused on what’s happening in Gaza, but Hezbollah continues to be able to fire rockets, and they continue to violate the U.N. agreement, to keep that buffer zone between Israel and any kind of military force.”

“Hezbollah feels like it has a free hand to attack Israel as well, because they believe that the United States no longer supports Israel,” Glick confirmed. When Hamas invaded Israel, it “organized its units with clear goals” like “a conventional army,” but “their action … wasn’t just seize territory and move on. It was seize territory and murder everybody as savagely as possible,” because they’re also a terrorist organization, described Glick. “Hezbollah has the same modus operandi, and they’re much more powerful.”

“And of course, you still have Iran to deal with,” Perkins added. “If you don’t eliminate Hamas, you’re going to have to deal with the others.”

Glick explained that Rafah is essential to defeating Hamas because the terrorist group has four battalions and its top commanders still sheltering there. Additionally, “from a strategic perspective … it’s the international border with Egypt. And so long as Hamas continues to control the international border with Egypt, it’s going to have the ability to rebuild its forces through arms smuggling across the border.”

“The people of Israel aren’t willing to stand down. The government of Israel isn’t willing to capitulate,” insisted Glick. Neither are their enemies, which means only one thing: “We’re headed towards more war.”

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.