‘FINISH UP’: Trump Isn’t Wrong on Gaza | Steve Berman

Donald Trump told two reporters from the conservative Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom (“Israel Today”) that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to “finish up” the war on Gaza.

“You have to finish up your war,” Mr. Trump said. “You have to get it done. We have to get to peace. We can’t have this going on.”

“Trump’s Call for Israel to ‘Finish Up’ War Alarms Some on Right’ – New York Times

The two reporters traveled to Mar a Lago to meet with Trump; a meeting that was arranged by Miriam Adelson, a billionaire Republican and big donor. They were, according to Jonathan Swan in the New York Times, “hoping to elicit…a powerful expression of support for their country’s war in Gaza.”

I don’t know what kind of statement they were fishing for, perhaps some attack on President Joe Biden, who recently turned his back on Israel, allowing the U.N. Security Council (no friend of Israel), to pass a terribly-written resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire without condemning Hamas for its barbarous actions on October 7th, 2023. What Biden did is inexcusable. After months of visible and enthusiastic support of Israel’s right to defend itself and go after the cancerous tumor that turned Gaza into a bed of hate and terror tunnels, he gave Hamas exactly what they wanted, making it less likely Israeli families of hostages held in Gaza will ever see their loved ones again (alive).

Ariel Kahana, a senior correspondent for Israel Hayom, wrote that both Biden and Trump “are turning their rhetorical backs on Israel.” That’s one point of view. But in fact, only one candidate for president turning their back really matters, and more than just words. As for Trump, he’s more right than wrong.

He told the interviewers that Israel was losing public support for its Gaza assault, that the images of devastation were bad for Israel’s global image and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should end his war soon — statements that sounded far more like something President Biden might say than the kind of cheerleading Mr. Netanyahu has come to expect from Washington Republicans.

I don’t think anything Trump told the interviewers is wrong. If the former president knows anything, it’s how public support and public perception affects events. Wars are terrible; wars are hell. Israel is doing all it can to “win” against an enemy who can draw on over a million young, motivated, and able bodies to fill its losses. Until all the major tunnels, rocket stores, ammunition supplies, and chief leaders of Hamas have been dismantled and liquidated, Israel can’t stop its assaults. In the last two weeks, the IDF had to go back to the massive al Shifa hospital in Gaza City, because Hamas had re-occupied it with hundreds of fighters and terrorists.

It’s hard to see how this war can be quick, but the call to “finish up” is not wrong. The longer the war goes on, the more pressure other countries, even friends of Israel, will feel to turn to the humanitarian disaster it is causing.

“Finish up” is a good piece of advice, I’d say, for Netanyahu. However: politics sucks.

Swan, in the NYT, wrote that “Mr. Trump’s hedging commentary to Israel Hayom is only the latest in a long line of public statements he has made to undercut Mr. Netanyahu, whom he has still not forgiven for congratulating Mr. Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.” As proof of this, he noted Trump’s “first reaction to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack was to criticize Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli intelligence services.” Well, most Israelis, after the initial numbness and shock, had the same reaction, if Swan had bothered to look, or maybe he just omitted that on purpose.

It’s not hedging to tell the truth about how badly this war is damaging Israel’s international image. It’s not hedging to say that the repercussions of this war going on for months longer could permanently harm Israeli economic, security, and intelligence efforts for many years. It’s not hedging to say that this entire problem occurred on Netanyahu’s watch, and he is uniquely responsible for the intelligence disaster and policy toward Gaza that allowed October 7th to happen.

It’s not hedging to say that Netanyahu better get on with it and “finish up” as quickly as possible, or take one of the many offramps that may get the hostages home. The problem now is not that Trump told some reporters a few uncomfortable truths about how the war is perceived by the non-Israeli public. The problem is that Joe Biden, the sitting president, blindsided Israel and Netanyahu by siding with the anti-Israel U.N., making a deal with China and Russia to force some kind of “peace” (meaning a unilateral ceasefire), giving Hamas exactly the ammunition it wanted to get Israel to stop its war before all the tunnels and weapons have been destroyed.

Stories like Swan’s are just cover for Biden, making it about Trump, who has no official role or power, while the president and the Jew-hating wing of his party can go about their slow turn away from Israel, as history is buried and rewritten, making Israel the villain. I am under no illusion that there’s plenty of anti-Semitism in certain parts of the MAGA movement–conspiracies breed Jew hatred. But in this case, Trump isn’t dog-whistling to them (I know it when I hear it). He told the truth as he sees it.

I hope that the IDF can do exactly what is needed: to quickly finish operations in Gaza. That they destroy the cross-border tunnels in Rafah, which bring in hundreds of millions of criminal smuggling dollars for Hamas and its villainous leaders who live in luxury in Qatar and cash their checks in the UAE. That they eliminate every Hamas leader and hamper the group’s ability to recruit more young people who are told to die for their cause. That after Hamas is dismantled, Gaza can begin to rebuild.

If the war doesn’t finish up quickly, it could expand, with Iran now saber-rattling after Israel struck a diplomatic building in Damascus, killing a senior Iranian commander and six others. Hizbollah has held back, but the war in the north of Israel is beginning to heat up. Lebanon could be next, and as bad as Gaza is, that would be worse for Israel’s reputation.

As much as the New York Times wants Trump to be wrong or lying every single time he speaks, this time, I think he’s not wrong.

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.

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