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“Mistakes” were made


You know misconduct by the IDF is particularly egregious when even the official story is incredibly daming:

A series of Israeli failures, including a breakdown in communication and violations of the military’s own rules of engagement, led to the deadly airstrikes that killed seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza this week, senior Israeli military officials said on Friday.

The military officials said that the officers who ordered the strikes on the aid convoy had violated the army’s protocols, in part by opening fire on the basis of insufficient and erroneous evidence that a passenger in one of the cars was armed.

The attack prompted a wave of international outrage and renewed questions about whether Israeli forces on the ground in Gaza properly vet targets before unleashing deadly force. Israel has come under increasing pressure over the high civilian death toll in its six-month war in Gaza. The strikes on the aid workers prompted President Biden for the first time to say he would leverage U.S. aid to influence the conduct of the war against Hamas.

On Friday, the Israeli military announced that two officers — a reserve colonel and a major — would be dismissed from their positions. Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military’s chief of staff, had also decided to formally reprimand the head of Israel’s southern command, as well as two other senior officers, the military said in a statement.

“The insufficient and erroneous evidence” is sufficient for multiple people to be brought up on criminal charges. But even if an armed person were on the convoy, what is the justification for killing everybody with three seperate precision attacks? Obviously, it wasn’t about protecting the aid workers, given that they were all killed in three different strikes. Nor did they pose any immediate thread to any Israeli soldier. It’s just an admission that essentially no weight is being placed on civilian life no matter how remote the threat posed.

My Lai 2.0 does seem to have compelled Biden to have issued more serious threats of conditions that Netanyahu is at least pretending to take seriously:

President Joe Biden put his own and America’s credibility on the line in trying to change how Israel is fighting in Gaza.

Now, he waits to see how far Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will yield to the most significant tonal and strategic shift by his administration since the start of the war.

If Netanyahu declines to take the “specific, concrete and measurable” steps in Gaza to ease civilian suffering and protect aid workers that Biden requested Thursday, the US president will face a critical choice. Is he prepared to allow Netanyahu to prolong his defiance on an issue that is creating a huge political risk in his reelection year with young, progressive and Arab American voters outraged over the war?

Or will Biden take the momentous step of conditioning the terms of US support for Israel in a war that was triggered by Hamas terror attacks in Israel that killed 1,200 people?

In one early sign that Biden’s message may be getting through, the Israeli security cabinet late Thursday approved steps including the reopening of the Erez crossing between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip for the first time since the October 7 attacks, an Israeli official told CNN. The move could allow humanitarian aid to flow more easily into Gaza as famine looms.

But a sustained Israeli pivot will be needed in the days ahead – one that survives potential escalations in the war against Hamas – to ease criticism of Netanyahu and to mitigate Biden’s own domestic political exposure.

A high-stakes call between Biden and Netanyahu on Thursday followed the deaths of seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen in an Israeli strike in Gaza. The tragedy appeared to galvanize more outrage than the killing of what the Gaza health ministry says are more than 30,000 people in the enclave, where Hamas embeds its forces in civilian areas.

It was an important moment because for the first time, the US is raising the prospect of conditionality in its so-far staunch support for Israel, by warning that its policy on Gaza could change without swift action by Netanyahu. Biden also called for an “immediate ceasefire,” officials said.

Biden needs to follow through here. I’m not even convinced he would benefit politically — I can see the media pivoting to blaming him for everything done by the IDF and Hamas, and the Afghanistan Experience also provides strong evidence that his harshest left critics will refuse to take “yes” for an answer — but either way it’s just necessary as a policy matter at this point.

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder that anyone claiming that Republicans would be better for Palestinian rights is a liar who isn’t making a good faith effort to try to pressure Biden in the right direction, but just wants Trump to win:

One of the most notable features of Netanyahu’s strategy in recent months has been his unwillingness to pay even symbolic lip service to US needs given the political price that Biden is paying in return for his staunch support for Israel. On one hand, that is not surprising. For many Israelis, the horror of the October terror attacks and the depravity of an enemy that wants to wipe it off the map has overshadowed other considerations. Netanyahu, who has tracked far to the right over his career, also runs the most conservative government in Israeli history and is dependent on several extreme Orthodox parties to remain in power. The Israeli prime minister is a consummate Washington player and has been engaging with Biden’s Republican foes on Capitol Hill, in an alliance that could increase political complications for the president if he creates deeper fractures with the Israeli prime minister. Reinforcing the synergy between Netanyahu and the GOP, House Speaker Mike Johnson warned in a post on X, “The President’s ultimatums should be going to Hamas, not Israel.”

Netanyahu is many things, most of them appalling, but he’s not stupid, and it makes perfect sense for him to want Republicans to win — which is going to make constraining him even more difficult.

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