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November 7, 2023

In Brief: About That ‘Humanitarian Pause’

Joe Biden’s phrase is being picked up by other Democrats, but it’s a really bad idea.

“I think we need a pause,” Joe Biden said the other day of the Israeli incursion into Gaza to fight Hamas. “A pause means giving time to get the prisoners out.” He was responding to a heckler and illustrating that while he’s bad enough from the teleprompter, he’s even worse off the cuff. Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeated the idea, meaning it’s now official policy.

Two key editorial boards took exception, and we’ll quote the best excerpts.

The Wall Street Journal:

The President may conciliate some Democrats to his left, but a pause would halt Israel’s advance and momentum in exchange for uncertain gains. Mr. Blinken acknowledged that Israel has raised “legitimate questions” about “how to connect a pause to the release of hostages, how to ensure that Hamas doesn’t use these pauses or arrangements to its own advantage.”

“We believe they can be solved,” the Secretary of State added, but he didn’t say how. He’ll need details to convince Israel, which won’t consider a temporary cease-fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, unless Hamas releases its 242 hostages.

As Israeli forces have advanced, quickly encircling Gaza City and bearing down on tunnel networks and strongholds, Hamas would like nothing more than to slow them down.

It strains credibility to think Hamas wouldn’t use a pause to its advantage. Nor is Hamas likely to release all hostages and forfeit its best leverage. It may drag out negotiations, dribbling out hostages to win reprieve after reprieve, plus propaganda bumps.

The way to help Palestinian civilians isn’t to slow the Israeli advance. …

Pushing for pauses in Gaza, on the other hand, could backfire by keeping Hamas afloat and dragging out the conflict — to the detriment of Israeli and Palestinian civilians. The U.S. interest is in a swift and decisive Israeli victory.

National Review quoted several Democrats who rushed to echo Biden’s “pause” rhetoric before writing:

In the coming days, we can expect more Democrats will join this growing chorus. According to CNN, the Biden administration is “warning Israel with growing force that it will become increasingly difficult for it to pursue its military goals in Gaza as global outcry intensifies about the scale of humanitarian suffering there.” That’s it, isn’t it? The “global outcry” that routinely follows when Israel exercises its absolute right to self-defense has just become too discomfiting for the Democratic Party. The barbarity of the 10/7 attack shocked the senses, but that shock has faded. And with it, so, too, has the Democratic Party’s resolve.

Biden’s cravenness has given cover to members of his party who were always uncomfortable with Israel’s expressions of its own desire to continue existing, but he has also now committed his administration to an assault on the national consensus in support of Israel’s war he helped to build. …

And for what? Recently, White House spokesman John Kirby tried to establish the fine distinctions between a cease-fire — which the administration steadfastly opposes — and a “humanitarian pause,” but he managed only incoherence. The difference is “a question of duration and scope and size and that kind of thing,” Kirby insisted. Those qualifications don’t neutralize the problem with a “pause,” which is the same problem that precludes the prospect of a cease-fire: Hamas would use the time to rearm, regroup, and undermine Israel’s strategic position. …

There has been a high number of civilian casualties in this war. But that is not Israel’s fault. It is, after all, the objective of the illegitimate regime in control of the Gaza Strip. And there will be more. “It is ugly and it’s going to be messy, and innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward,” Kirby said of the war Hamas provoked. Biden’s calls for a “humanitarian pause” tacitly validate Hamas’s desire to blame Israel for the civilian casualties the terror group seeks to maximize. …

It is a sorry but not surprising sight to watch Democrats lose the nerve they summoned for only a few short weeks, but no one should feel obliged to listen to them. Israel, least of all.

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