Whisper it, but Joe Biden might be the Jews’ greatest ever friend

In years to come we’ll celebrate Chag Joe Biden


This picture taken on April 15, 2024 shows a mural drawn by the "Grafitiyul" graffiti art group depicting US President Joe Biden dressed as the Marvel comics character "Captain America" standing before an Israeli flag and holding up his shield depicting the Star of David symbol, along a street in Tel Aviv. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

April 15, 2024 16:55

With our long, historic memory, the Jewish people will in future devote a day in the calendar to commemorate the President of the United States: Chag Joe.

This week President Biden surpassed his own record as an unparalleled ally of Israel when he created an ad-hoc international coalition with Britain, France and a number of key Arab countries to help shield Israel from the largest salvo of missiles and drones ever launched in one go by a single country.

Biden convinced the other partners to join this coalition, despite supporting Israel to the hilt since October 7 and having had his advice to Israel’s leaders over the past six months spurned every step of the way. Despite international support for Israel being at an all time low. And despite his own well founded distrust for Israel’s prime minister.

The coalition put together by Biden not only saved Israeli lives but has opened a way for Israel out of the strategic quagmire into which the Netanyahu government has led the country. At a time when the anger towards Israel in the Arab world over the situation in Gaza is at a peak, Biden motivated Arab regimes to cooperate in a military alliance protecting Israel against Iran. That would have been an unprecedented achievement in more normal times. That he has done it now, when he is paying a price domestically for his unstinting support of Israel, gives him a claim to be the staunchest ally of the Jewish people in history.

Start with how the Biden coalition saved Israeli lives in the early hours of Sunday morning. Israel’s domestically developed Arrow and David’s Sling missile defence systems (with major funding from successive American administrations) worked well against the Iranian onslaught, probably as well as could be expected when dealing with dozens of incoming targets at once. But the announcement by the IDF that the interception rate was “99 percent” was somewhat misleading.

The Iranians achieved a handful of direct hits, including at least one on Nevatim Air Force Base, though it didn’t create much damage. The 99 percent figure can only be accurate when applied to the total number of projectiles fired by the Iranians, nearly 340 drones, cruise and ballistic missiles. The slower and low-flying drones and cruise missiles were mostly shot down over Jordanian and Syrian airspace by a joint effort of the Israeli, American, British and Jordanian air forces.

That leaves an estimated 110 ballistic missiles, some of which malfunctioned and fell short, which were shot down by Arrow and David’s Sling. That still means an interception rate of around 90 percent, which is impressive. But it was achieved to a large degree thanks to the international air armada downing nearly all the drones long before they reached Israel’s borders — and crucially preventing the Israeli air defences from being distracted. Without the extra layers of protection provided by the coalition and the early warning data from American and Arab radar systems in the region, Israel would probably still have intercepted the large bulk of the incoming waves, but a few dozen drones and missiles would almost certainly have made it through, causing significant casualties and damage to strategic installations.

Israel would then have been forced to immediately launch its crushing strike on Iran, almost certainly leading to an order from Tehran to Hezbollah to unleash its missile arsenal from Lebanon. That is why Iran supplied the missiles to begin with. Israel has the resources to win such a war, but the cost in human life would have been several times that of October 7.

Biden didn’t just prevent such an outcome, he also demonstrated to the entire Middle East that an American-backed alliance between Israel and the moderate Arab regimes can effectively work together, openly, against Iran. Previous American presidents spoke about such alliances, but only Biden has proved it can work, and at the most unexpected moment.

“Israel has suddenly received a strategic opportunity,” an Israeli general said this week. “It’s like the moment we had just after October 7, when we had the sympathy of the world.” It hasn’t changed the situation on the ground in Gaza but it has brought home the fact that Hamas is on its own. Iran has been proved to be both unwilling, when it comes to using the Hezbollah card, and incapable, when it comes to the use of missiles fired from its own territory, to help Hamas.

The October 7 comparison is important. The disaster was averted on 14 April but if enough Iranian missiles had got through we would be talking now of yet another epic failure by Israeli intelligence — the assessment that Iran would not respond directly to the air strike on 1 April against the building in the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, where seven IRGC officers, including a senior general, were killed. That assessment has now been shown as wrong. Since no Israelis were killed in Iran’s retaliation it’s going largely unmentioned, but it has certainly been noticed, as has been the decision by Israel’s leadership to act upon it.

Biden and his senior officials have barely mentioned Gaza in their public statements recently. The focus has been on Iran, but the two are of course linked. They are still waiting for a coherent plan from the Netanyahu government of how it intends to win the war in Gaza, now in its seventh month. Most crucially, who and what does Israel envisage taking control in the vacuum which has now been created by the IDF operations there, before Hamas makes a comeback? Netanyahu, has vetoed the plan supported by his defence minister Yoav Gallant and the security establishment that a force aligned with the Palestinian Authority will gradually take over. But he has yet to come up with any viable alternative.

The American plan from the start of the war was to support Israel’s campaign against Hamas and then to leverage the return of a “revitalised” Palestinian Authority to Gaza, leading to a much wider diplomatic initiative, including diplomatic relations between Israel and the Saudis and an American-backed regional defence alliance. By showing in the skies over the Middle East on Sunday morning the potential of such an alliance, Biden is hoping that he can overcome Netanyahu’s veto of the first step of his plan.

April 15, 2024 16:55

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